Projecting what kind of impact a transfer can be extremely difficult, particularly when it comes to players transferring from a mid-major league to a high-major. We’ve seen a countless number of successes when it comes to up-transfers but also a ton of players who weren’t ready for the challenge and ended up buried on the bench.
In the 2020-21 season the Gators will have the luxury of activating a pair of transfers to their lineup after the duo was forced to sit out last year due to NCAA transfer rules. Tyree Appleby (Cleveland State) and Anthony Duruji (Louisiana Tech) will be entering the mix as redshirt-juniors, experienced college ball players who the Gators hope can be productive instantaneously.
What exactly is fair to expect from these players? There have been some analysts, like myself, who are incredibly high on these two players and expect instant quality but there are also others who caution any level of expectation considering the fact that some players simply can’t make the step up from mid-major to high-major.
Up until this point there hasn’t been much statistical study done about what could be expected from these two players so I took it upon myself to try and find out what exactly could be expected from these two if you look at things from as analytically a standpoint as possible. To do this, I found every transfer player over the last decade that transferred from Conference USA (where Louisiana Tech plays) to a high-major school as well as every player that transferred from the Horizon League (where Cleveland State plays) to the power six.
I took their numbers from their final year at the mid-major level and then put it against their numbers in their first high-major season and in doing so, with a sample of every player that made the same transfer leap in the last decade, found the average increase or decrease the player made in each statistical category. With this data I was able to come up with an algorithm to plug Appleby and Duruji’s numbers into and the formula will give us a prediction of what can be expected from each of them next year at Florida. It may not be exact but with a rather large sample size of players we can see the clear trends and it should help paint a picture of what impact players like Appleby and Duruji have had in the past and what can be expected. Just so it’s out there, here are Duruji and Appleby’s sophomore stats at Louisiana Tech and Cleveland State.
Conference USA Transfers
There have been a few misses from players who weren’t able to make the leap from Conference USA to the power six but there have also been some great successes. Overall, here are the average stats for every Conference USA player in their first high-major season:
Looking at these numbers it shows that most players that make the jump end up being high-major role players. They are solid numbers, but not those of a high-end starter.
One note of interest—in a wild turn of events these transfers shot significantly better from three at the high-major level than in Conference USA. You’d think that against bigger, longer defenders the three-point shooting would drop, but actually even with a large sample size most shooters got significantly better.
We’ve seen the average numbers from a CUSA to high-major player but that isn’t accurate enough—we’ve got to get the average change in stats and plug Duruji’s numbers into the algorithm and see what his projected high-major impact is. When we do that, this is what we get. As accurate of a projection as numbers can give us, here are the projected numbers for Anthony Duruji in 2020-21:
Duruji projects to be better than the average CUSA transfer as he had better numbers than most of the players who made the same jump, and these projections give a reasonable look at what we potentially could expect from him.
A couple of notes—as you can see, the ridiculous shooting improvements of players going from CUSA to P6 really boosted Duruji’s percentage and while there is a large sample size of players showing this improvement it’s tough to know whether that will truly be the case. I would expect some improvement, and my theory regarding the improved shooting form these transfers is that historically most players get better from behind the arc as they get older and the thing with transfers is that they are inherently older by a year from their first school to their second.
The other thing to notice is that according to the algorithm based on the trends from the last decade Duruji is expected to play 27.1 minutes per game, but with the Gators looking like a deep squad that number of minutes is probably too high. Let’s adjust and say that Duruji plays 20 minutes per game. Here would be his projected numbers:
Exactly what role Duruji will earn in the rotation is impossible to nail down right now but between the initial projection of what he could do as a 27 minute per game starter or as a key 20 minute per game role player you can see what he would be expected to produce.
Horizon League Transfers
The Horizon League generally isn’t as good as conference USA but has still had some wonderful teams over the last decade that have produced a number of good players. Here is what the average Horizon League player average their first season after transferring to the high-majors:
When it comes to high-major transfers there have definitely been more busts from the Horizon League than Conference USA and that has brought down the overall numbers. That was for the average player over the last decade but you know the drill, we’ve to plug Appleby’s numbers into the algorithm. Here is what it predicts Appleby’s numbers will be:
Even though Horizon League players haven’t transitioned as well to the high-major ranks as from some other mid major leagues Appleby’s ridiculous production in his final year at Cleveland State made it so that he still projected to be a valuable player at the high-major level. Something interesting again—just like with the up-transfers from CUSA, Horizon League players have improved their shooting when they went up a level, something that suggests Appleby will improve his three-point stroke from his already fantastic 39% stroke at Cleveland State. I actually could see Appleby improving his percentage mostly based on the fact he’ll be taking a lot of easier attempts at Florida. At Cleveland State he was a one-man offense taking a lot of tough jumpers and with the Gators he should get more open looks.
Just like with Duruji it’s tough to know exactly how much he’ll play and even though the algorithm suggests he’ll play 22.7 minutes per game I’ll do the same thing I did with Duruji’s numbers and plug Appleby into a 20 minute per game projection. Here’s what you get:
The thing about Appleby is that if Nembhard decides to leave Appleby could definitely be the starting point guard and could get more than the algorithm’s projected 22.7 minutes for him. Florida would have a few different options at the point guard spot but if Appleby is the starter he could get closer to 30 minutes per game, so why don’t we run a simulation of Appleby playing 27 minutes per game:
This isn’t to put any undue pressure on Appleby, but with the numbers he put up at Cleveland State he’s really not your normal mid-major transfer and he should be expected to be a key player for the Gators next season, whether it’s off the bench as an instant offense weapon or as a starter where he can be a threat with his individual scoring ability.
Something else jumped out while going through all the Horizon League transfers over the last decade. Three of the best that had the best high-major careers were Rob Edwards (who went on to score 11.1 points per game at Arizona State), Trey Lewis (11.3 points per game at Louisville), and Bryn Forbes (8.5 points at Michigan State, but then 14.4 as a redshirt senior).
Where did they all transfer from? Cleveland State. In fact, they are the only three Cleveland State to high-major transfers in recent history, and they all had great success. That is another piece of evidence that supports the case for Appleby as an impactful high-major player, as if his numbers weren’t enough.
The thing about both Anthony Duruji and Tyree Appleby in the context of their first seasons active in Florida is that the Gators are looking like a deep and talented team and therefore both of them might see their numbers dip below what would normally be expected from players of their talent level. Their seasons should be gauged on the success of the team and shouldn’t hinge on their box score production, though based on the algorithm of similar players over the past decade they should definitely be able to ball out on the box score. They’re going to valuable pieces and are tremendous Gators and you should be incredibly excited to see them play.