For those of you who have not read the previous iterations of this article (Year 1 here, Year 2 there), the basketball void left by the hesitance to schedule games around finals week has led to a thought experiment led by the question, “What if college basketball had a trade deadline?”
You can read the two linked articles for a primer (and extra bonus clicks for us) if you want, but the premise is basic. Players and scholarships can be moved at will. The risk of traded players transferring are not accounted for, in addition to scholarship limitations, since that would require way too much effort from me. The chances of a traded player leaving college early for the NBA, however, will be considered. Got it? Good.
First, let’s review how the previous trades would have gone had they happened. In the first year, I put forth the trade of Matt Heldt to Tennessee for point guard Chris Darrington. That trade wouldn’t have had a real on-court effect. Heldt’s role declined over his final year and a half at Marquette and Darrington transferred to Toledo for his senior year to become a backup point guard. He might have been an upgrade over Joseph Chartouny, but the result would’ve been minimal for last year’s purposes. It would’ve been considered an abject failure due to the unexpected rise of The Milkman’s legacy.
Last year’s offer, well.... Yikes. I offered Miami 3 years of Greg Elliott for .5 years of Zach Johnson to compliment Markus Howard and provide some relief for a future logjam at the wing position. At the time Johnson was lighting it up for a Hurricane team struggling to win games. During conference play, his shooting completely fell off a cliff and it would’ve been a disaster had this mythical trade gone through.
So that’s the quick examen. Onto this year.
When this article was tossed around in the Anonymous Eagle group chat, I openly considered the prospect of trading Markus Howard.
HEY HEY HEY CALM DOWN LET ME FINISH.
The reasoning involved a lack of potential for the Golden Eagles to make a big splash this year, an availability for a game-manager point guard in the foreseeable future, the bevy of good-but-flawed teams at the top of the KenPom.com rankings who could really use an elite shooter, and young point guards at schools like Kansas, Kentucky, and Memphis that could be used to obtain said shooter.
I couldn’t do it. Markus Howard is too important to the identity of this program and it would make me feel icky to say that a season which will likely result in a tournament bid should be punted away. Getting a point guard also implies the surety that next year’s team can do better with just one addition. Next year’s team will feature a lot of new faces and a new system in the post-Markus era. It wouldn’t be wise to make any rock solid expectations with that much transition.
It still would be preferable to give up some pieces this year for better long-term wing options, but there just aren’t that many trade-able players that the team could part with. Theo John is too crucial to the defense, and most of the other useful pieces are guys we would likely use to be replaced on the roster. Think of it this way, why would a team with a better shooting guard than Koby McEwen make a swap for Koby? I might have a couple ways around this, though.
Option 1: Find A Team That Uses A Lot Of Bench Minutes, Trade Our Depth For 1 Guy Better Than The Rest
This, admittedly, is not an easy option, but it’s worth a shot. Our ideal high-major team would need a coach that values bench depth, needs guards, but also has one as a secondary scoring option. Let’s find some teams with cold bench seats first.
I’m quickly eliminating Seton Hall and Georgetown because screw them for many and varied reasons. Also getting rid of Memphis because there’s an 80% chance the player we’d trade for is ineligible. All the useful Duke players will be in the NBA soon, so they’re out. Justin Ahrens from Ohio State wouldn’t be a terrible idea, but I doubt the Buckeyes have any interest in shaking up their team at this juncture.
This leaves us Wichita State, West Virginia, VCU, and Harvard as the remaining candidates. Luka Sakota is the only available guy from Harvard I’d like, but he’s more of a project and would require too much risk on our end. West Virginia fouls just as much as you remember them doing and could really use the depth, but all their guards suck on offense. Dexter Dennis has the potential to win AAC Player of the Year out of Wichita State, but he has really struggled coming out of the gate, with no improvement on his finishing ability. It’d be an incredibly risky trade that I’m not willing to make just yet.
That leaves VCU. I was very willing to write them off as a team with young, unheralded talent. Then I took a closer look at Nah’Shon Hyland. He was Delaware’s High School Player of the Year in 2019 after bouncing back from injuries set from a horrible family tragedy (pay for The Athletic, cowards) that forced him to jump out of a burning building (fine here’s a free article, go pay for The Athletic anyway). His comeback to playing basketball is truly miraculous and he’s on a fast track to being that one guy who every college basketball fan universally loves as a senior. He had interest from a ton of high major schools before ultimately landing on VCU. His nickname is also “Bones”, which is a top tier nickname.
As it stands this year, he is one of the first guys off the bench and is an absolute hound on the defensive end. When he plays, he’s the anchor of the Rams’ Havoc defense that we’ve all come to associate with the program and, while he has under-performed in this area through nine games of his collegiate career, he has the reputation of being a deadly shooter. That over-aggressiveness has led to some ill-advised shots and he will rush a bit during transition opportunities, but those can be chalked up to being a freshman. His future is incredibly bright.
“Why,” you may ask, “would VCU give up their best recruit and likely fan favorite?” A large reason resides in their current roster. Right now there are 7 guys playing more minutes than Bones. Five of them are seniors, and Marcus Santos-Silva, a junior, could easily bolt for the NBA after this year. Mike Rhoades will be going through a major rebuilding effort after this year, and they’re currently competing in a massively tough A-10 Conference. While being the eighth guy off the bench is incredibly valuable to a team like VCU, I’m sure they’d much rather have a guy that can wiggle himself into being the first or second guy. Possibly someone who can provide some more scoring right now while being able to keep up defensively.
Enter Sacar Anim.
Yes, I feel icky about entering his name as well since he’s a redshirt senior who has clawed his way into a starting role and is the exact type of guy who gives us a reason to love college basketball. He clearly took his early season slump to heart and is back to his normal levels of steady production while being the best defender on the team. Part of what makes trades tough is that teams can’t just unload all the guys they don’t like and expect anything good to come out of it. It needs to hurt a little bit. This one will hurt emotionally, but it could make this team much better on the court.
If this trade were to happen, Greg Elliott would most likely slide into Anim’s starting role and keep pace with Sacar’s defensive contributions while being able to provide efficient offense with a little bit less flexibility. Hyland would then be the first guy off the bench to spell either Koby McEwen or Markus Howard. Head coach Steve Wojciechowski has flirted with a moderate press recently, and Hyland’s presence would allow him to ramp that up more and create easy points with steals.
In the halfcourt offense he’d play the role of “Point Guard 1A” that Wojo likes to have in his arsenal. His offensive style can be best described as “jittery”, which can lead to some erratic shots, but it can also cause defenses fits, especially when that’s coupled with the lethal outside shot that he’s scouted to have.
All this leads to a moderately successful move for this year, which is a decent portion of why this trade would work in our favor, but this is also a move for the next 3 years with the upcoming recruiting class. The effectiveness at the guard positions are reliant on the development of Symir Torrence and Dexter Akanno, while also praying that Greg Elliott stays healthy and Koby can become a more consistent scorer. Adding another guard who can create his own shot and actively contribute to what should be an incredible defense coming up will be a huge. Right now the collection of those 4 guards is most likely to even out as a slightly above average D-1 unit. That’s not a reason to get in a major tizzy, but to compete in a high major conference every unit needs to be at its peak potential. Adding another guard capable of starting might create a bit of a logjam, especially since Wojo might be playing with a much bigger lineup next year, but the ceiling for the guards would raise tremendously.
On top of all this, Marquette fans everywhere will latch onto Nah’Shon. It’s hard not to when his nickname is Bones, but the combination of his pedigree, rising stock and inspiring journey to this point would be a major talking point for the fanbase and launch him into the national spotlight.
Option 2: Three Team Trade
God I would love to conjure up a three team trade, but weaving a tapestry of 3 teams’ needs together such that they perfectly address inefficiencies left before and after the trade would probably require multiple weeks’ effort on my part. So if I ever do suggest such a proposition, I am most likely recently divorced.
So what do you say, Mid Major Madness? Would you accept Sacar Anim, plus an extra scholarship spot for next year, in exchange for Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland?