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How Does Austin Arians Compare with ACC Grad Transfers?

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Arians is off to a good start for Wake this season, is he the best grad transfer in the ACC though?

NCAA Basketball: Coastal Carolina at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

In recent years college basketball has shifted its entire “business” model in a couple of different ways. “Student-athletes” went from playing four years at one school, and then either going pro in basketball, or something else, to the “one-and-done” rule, to eventually having players at smaller schools be allowed to transfer to bigger and better schools after they have completed their degree at their original school.

While there is another article completely on whether or not this is good or “fair” for the schools and players themselves (I do not believe it is), the rules are what they are for now, and as a result, there are nine graduate transfers in the ACC this year who were not here last year.

Last year we saw Rick Pitino take full advantage of this system, as he grabbed two of the better players in the country in Damion Lee (Drexel), and Trey Lewis (Cleveland State) to round out his team. Had the Cardinals not been ineligible for the post-season due to a recruiting scandal, they would have been legitimate national title contenders.

Wake Forest has also been involved in the game a bit over the past few years, as the Deacs grabbed: Coron Williams (Robert Morris), Darius Leonard (Campbell), and this year Austin Arians (Milwaukee).

This year there are nine graduate transfers spread out over five different schools: Boston College (3), Syracuse (2), Georgia Tech (2), Wake, Louisville.

This article was prompted by the hot start of Austin Arians, who has been a pleasant surprise to a lot of folks, but not necessarily those “in the know” around here. Arians was a vital player for Milwaukee last season, playing 77% of the Panthers’ minutes en route to a 113 offensive rating, and a top 5 national turnover rate at 6.4% of his possessions.

Arians has kept with that strong start thus far, posting a (probably unsustainable) offensive rating of 135 in 59% of the team’s minutes. This is very good, but is it the best in the ACC so far? Let’s take a look:

Name Former School Current School Mins % Ortg OR% DR% Arate TORate FT% 2PT% 3PT%
Austian Arians Milwaukee Wake Forest 59.4 135.8 5.1 5.8 6.5 9.6 90% 67% 43%
Jordan Chatman BYU Boston College 48.8 100.9 1.5 9.7 10.8 21.4 90% 33% 42%
John Gillon Colorado State Syracuse 50 113.9 2.2 3.6 38 22.2 75% 58% 35%
Tony Hicks Penn Louisville 16 59.3 1.7 7 21.9 22.4 67% 21% 0%
Maurice Jeffers Delaware Boston College 53.4 80.8 9 22.8 3.3 25.8 43% 45% None Taken
Kellen McCormick Western Michigan Georgia Tech 4.3 200 0 7.5 0 0 None Taken 100% None Taken
Jodan Price Eastern Michigan Georgia Tech 4.3 23.3 0 7.5 11.4 0 None Taken 0% 0%
Connar Tava Western Michigan Boston College 61.9 103.3 10.2 15.8 15.8 27.7 69% 58% 0%
Andrew White III Nebraska Syracuse 81 116.6 1.8 10 10.9 10.6 71% 50% 39%

The chart above is a look at the advanced stats (i.e. tempo free) to take a look at the transfers. The firsts thing that sticks out is how much better Arians’ offensive rating is than any other player. Taking out Kellen McCormick of Georgia Tech, who plays just 4% of his team’s minutes, and the next closest offensive rating is Andrew White’s (yes that Andrew White) 116.6.

It is somewhat difficult to compare White to Arians because they are vastly different players. White plays 80% of the minutes for Syracuse, while Arians plays around 60% at Wake. They also have very different roles. Arians is a spot up shooter who stretches out the defense at the 3 or 4, and can occasionally go grab some rebounds (or blow-by T.J. Cline of Richmond). White is a skilled basketball player who is more of a volume shooter. White has a 22% usage rate, while Arians sits at 14%.

These two are clearly the best transfers so far, but John Gillon, the 6-foot guard from Colorado State, is also having a pretty good start to his season, alternating with sophomore Frank Jackson at the point guard position.

Gillon and White will be huge commodities for Coach Boeheim moving forward. As they learn the zone defense and get into “Syracuse habits” vs. “Colorado State”/”Nebraska” habits, are going to provide much needed sparks throughout the season for the Orange.

One name I am surprised to see up there struggling is Tony Hicks. Last year when I was sorting through some potential names that Wake could land at a guard spot, Hicks from Pennsylvania popped up on my radar. Once again, it is still early, but getting only 16% of the minutes for Coach Pitino during the non-conference schedule does not bode well for him moving forward.

To get a look at some more traditional stats here are the raw numbers:

Name Former School Current School MPG PPG RPG APG TOPG
Austian Arians Milwaukee Wake Forest 23.8 9.1 2.3 0.9 0.6
Jordan Chatman BYU Boston College 19.5 6.5 2 1.1 1.3
John Gillon Colorado State Syracuse 19.9 7.5 1.1 3.8 1.6
Tony Hicks Penn Louisville 11.8 2 1 1.6 1
Maurice Jeffers Delaware Boston College 21.4 5 6.1 0.4 1.6
Kellen McCormick Western Michigan Georgia Tech 4.7 0.7 0.3 0 0
Jodan Price Eastern Michigan Georgia Tech 3.5 0 0.3 0.3 0
Connar Tava Western Michigan Boston College 24.8 7.3 5.8 2.1 2.3
Andrew White III Nebraska Syracuse 32.3 16.6 3.9 1.6 1.3

The raw numbers look a lot better for White, especially in the scoring column, but a lot of that comes from his number of shots, as well as 10 additional minutes played over Arians.

I am not quite sure what’s going on down in Atlanta, as Josh Pastner took two graduate transfers, but they combine for seven minutes a game. It’s very rare to see these guys come in from a lower-tier school and average single-digit minutes played. Most of the guys transferring up have been key contributors on their prior squad, if not the best player on their team.

Jim Christian of Boston College has done a nice job assembling three serviceable players to hold him over to next year, but it certainly prompts the question of why he needs so many graduate transfers to fill out his roster. In year three this is a pretty good sign that Christian is not getting it done on the recruiting trail.

In an ideal world, graduate transfers fill a much needed role at one position that was left either due to transfers, or somebody going pro. This is very much the case for Austin Arians, who is filling a huge gap at the 3 for the Deacs.

Although it is still very early, the return on investment (for Wake that’s just a scholarship that we already had open), on Austin Arians is tremendous. Even as he begins to level off from his torrid 50-40-90 start (very difficult to sustain), Arians is going to be a critical player for Wake Forest this season. His ability to hit the open three and bring out opposing players from the interior is amazingly helpful to clearing out the lane for John Collins and Dinos Mitoglou.

While Andrew White may be the better overall basketball player, Austin Arians is almost the perfect fit for Wake Forest at the small/power forward position with the other pieces on the roster.

Coach Manning did a fantastic job of going out to get him and sophomore Keyshawn Woods, and the dividends being paid are already noticeable.