Graduate transfers have become the biggest rage in college athletics, but especially in men's college basketball. First off, though, to clear up any confusion - a graduate transfer is a student-athlete who has completed their undergraduate degree requirements before exhausting their athletic eligibility. The student-athlete can continue to compete in NCAA athletics so long as they enroll in graduate coursework, whether at the same institution or at a different university. If they decided to transfer, they are immediately eligible to compete.
The trend of recruiting graduate transfers has caught fire at a lot of schools, and Western Kentucky is no exception, primarily in basketball.
Since 2015, the Hilltoppers have had six graduate transfers: Aaron Cosby (2015-16), Junior Lomomba (2016-17), Que Johnson (2016-17), Pancake Thomas (2016-17), Darius Thompson (2017-18), and Dwight Coleby (2017-18). Fans of the program are well aware of the impact that both Thompson, who transferred from Virginia, and Coleby, who transferred from Kansas, had on last year's NIT-semifinalist team.
That number of graduate transfers has now grown to seven, with Auburn transfer Desean Murray adding his name to the list in the offseason.
"It's been great so far," said the 6'4 guard. "I love the guys, love the coaches, love the campus. It feels like home and I'm glad to be here. I'm ready to just start practice, start games, and get to work."
Recruiting high school players who were expected to be "one-and-done" is a thing of the past. Recruiting graduate transfers is the new form of bringing in players for essentially a one year rental. Murray said Head Coach Rick Stansbury made a convincing case to him about the role he would have and what he could accomplish here, but it was the success of former WKU graduate transfers that was the deciding point for the former Auburn Tiger.
"[Darius Thompson] and [Dwight Coleby] coming in, and how [Thompson] was from Virginia and Dwight was from Kansas, and their stats when they were at those schools, and how they improved when they came here," Murray said. "They improved physically in their body, and mentally on the court and everything. That definitely sold me on a lot."
Murray was a vital member of an Auburn team that won 26 games during the 2017-2018 season and claimed a share of the 2018 SEC regular season title. The Stanley, North Carolina, native averaged 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds last year for the Tigers, but its his leader-like personality that he feels is the most valuable asset he brings to a youthful Hilltopper team that only has one other senior in Lamonte Bearden.
"I feel like it's just in my character, my personality...I've always been a leader," he said. "It's not that we need a leader, but of course it doesn't hurt to have leaders."
With only one season of eligibility left to play on the Hill, Murray has simple, yet straightforward goals for his final season of college basketball.
"I want to win this season," said Murray. "I want to do big things here. And I also want big things for my team."
Murray and the rest of his young Hilltopper team begin their season on October 30 inside E.A. Diddle Arena as they host Campbellsville in an exhibition game.