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October 30, 2008It's not just the wealth of experience returning and the addition of talented high school prospects that has the Big East looking so strong this season.
The nation's premier conference is also welcoming some top-flight transfers. Of Rivals.com's top 10 impact transfers for 2008-09, three are from the Big East (the most of any conference). The Atlantic 10 was the only other league with multiple selections.
All three of those Big East transfers were ranked in our top five. In fact, Seton Hall forward Robert "Stix" Mitchell tops our list. Mitchell was the A-10 Rookie of the Year two seasons ago at Duquesne, when he averaged 16.4 points and 5.4 rebounds a game.
"Stix is a gifted scorer," Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said. "Whatever 'it' is, he has it. He's one of those thin, George Gervin-slippery kind of players. He's a very difficult matchup. If you put a big guy on him, he's quick enough to go by the guy. If you put a guard on him, he'll post up and jump over him. He's very slithery. The thing that blew me away ? I knew he could score the ball ? was that he can handle the ball, he can pass the ball, he can run you're offense. He's got a great basketball IQ."
Even with that glowing review, Mitchell may not be Seton Hall's best transfer. The Pirates applied for hardship waivers with the NCAA in hopes of getting a pair of high-profile transfers ? guard Keon Lawrence (Missouri) and forward Herb Pope (New Mexico State) ? eligible this season. The same goes for South Florida with big man Gus Gilchrist (who enrolled briefly at Maryland but never played there).
No member of that trio or any other player waiting to hear on a hardship case was considered when compiling this list.
Rivals.com's Top 10 Transfers 2008-09
1. Robert Mitchell, Seton Hall, Sr., 6-6/180 Don't be surprised if Mitchell emerges as the Pirates' leading scorer. The Pirates have a big void on offense with the loss of leading scorer Brian Laing (18.6 ppg), and Mitchell is capable of filling much of it. The versatile small forward specializes in putting the ball in the basket. In 2006-07, Mitchell ranked ninth nationally in scoring among all Division I freshmen. He scored in double figures in 24 games and broke the 20-point barrier 12 times.
2. Zaire Taylor, Missouri, Jr., 6-4/190 There's a specific reason Taylor ended up at Missouri. The former Delaware guard is an ideal fit for the full-court pressure Tigers coach Mike Anderson likes to use. Blessed with a 6-foot-7 wingspan and quick hands, he excels at creating turnovers. As a freshman, he led the Colonial Athletic Association with 2.3 steals a game. He's also a solid shooter, making 39 percent of his career 3-point attempts.
3. Anthony Gurley, Massachusetts, So., 6-3/185 This athletic wing was the only Wake Forest player to transfer following the death of former Wake coach Skip Prosser in July 2007. Gurley chose to move close to his home in Boston. The former four-star recruit had scholarship offers from a number of ACC schools coming out of high school. He'll add some scoring punch ? he averaged 6.4 ppg in 14.5 mpg in his lone year at Wake ? and new Minutemen coach Derek Kellogg already has said he expects him to be one of the top defenders in the nation.
4. Reginald Delk, Louisville, Jr., 6-4/200 Louisville coach Rick Pitino has to like seeing another member of the Delk basketball family on his roster again. The last time Pitino coached a Delk was when Reginald's uncle, Tony, played for Pitino at Kentucky in 1995-96. That Wildcats team won Pitino's only national title. Reginald, a prototypical shooting guard, could help Pitino get a second with the ultra-talented Cardinals. The shooting guard started in each of his two seasons at Mississippi State and knocked down 122 3-pointers for the Bulldogs, making 38 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
5. Mike Mercer, South Florida, Jr., 6-4/190 If Mercer didn't have to sit out the fall semester ? he didn't transfer from Georgia until late November last year ? or played at a better program he would be higher on this list. No other transfer has better physical tools. A former five-star recruit, Mercer is extremely athletic and can play a number of roles on the court, including defensive stopper. Two seasons ago, he averaged 13.6 ppg, 3.6 apg and 1.7 spg in the SEC. He'll team with USF guard Dominique Jones (17.1 ppg) to give the Bulls two solid scoring threats on the perimeter.
6. Joe Trapani, Boston College, So., 6-8/218 A low-profile recruit coming out of high school, this forward garnered the interest of a handful of high-major programs by scoring 11.4 points and grabbing 4.4 rebounds as a freshman at Vermont. Armed with a quick release and range that extends beyond the new 3-point line, he will give the Eagles and star guard Tyrese Rice another scoring threat to utilize. He scored 26 points in a recent intrasquad scrimmage.
7. Tre'Von Willis, UNLV, So., 6-4/195 Stuck behind a talented rotation at Memphis, Willis chose to leave after just one year with the Tigers. The Rebels are certainly thankful for that decision. A score-first point guard, Willis will add a new dimension to a team that was already built to do some damage in the postseason ? the Rebels return three starters after a 27-win season. Willis scored in double figures in five of the Rebels' six exhibition games in Australia in August.
8. Jamel McLean, Xavier, So., 6-8, 235 Tulsa coaches did not want to see McLean leave - and with good reason. The athletic power forward showed plenty of promise in his only season with the Golden Hurricane, averaging 6.0 points and 4.8 rebounds. He had his best game against a Memphis team that went to the Elite Eight, scoring 16 points, grabbing eight boards and blocking four shots. With the loss of starting center Josh Duncan, the Musketeers will need McLean to provide some quality minutes immediately.
9. Alex Legion, Illinois, So., 6-5, 200 Just how quickly Legion can get comfortable with his new teammates will be a pivotal factor for the Fighting Illini. A former four-star recruit, the offensive-minded wing can't play until mid-December at the earliest ? he played in six games at Kentucky last season. He's a solid shooter who can also attack the basket. With the loss of their two leading scorers (Shaun Pruitt and Brian Randle), the Illini need all the scoring Legion can provide.
10. Kareem Cooper, UTEP, Jr., 7-0, 290 In two seasons at Memphis, Cooper was nothing more than a role player coming off the bench. However, the 7-footer has the size to be a great shot blocker and a huge inside presence. UTEP coach Tony Barbee knows all about Cooper's potential. A former Memphis assistant, he was part of the staff that recruited him to the Conference USA power and coached him during his freshman season.
Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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