NC State

How the transfer game could hurt N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts

N.C. State's Lavar Batts Jr. (3) passes the ball to Abdul-Malik Abu (0) as Robert Morris forward David Cole (2) defends during the first half of the Wolfpack’s game against Robert Morris at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017.
N.C. State's Lavar Batts Jr. (3) passes the ball to Abdul-Malik Abu (0) as Robert Morris forward David Cole (2) defends during the first half of the Wolfpack’s game against Robert Morris at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. ehyman@newsobserver.com

N.C. State added a transfer last week and lost one this week.

Roster turnover (about 40 percent of Division I players transfer) is a reality of college basketball. By itself, Lavar Batts’ decision to transfer on Monday is not a problem for Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts.

Batts, like most transfers, wants to play more. The point guard averaged 12.8 minutes per ACC game as a freshman. Keatts, who won 21 games and led the Wolfpack to the NCAA tournament in his first season, has plenty of other options at point guard.

That Batts is the fourth player to transfer out of the program in the past six months is not necessarily a cause for concern, either. In any coaching transition, especially the first 12 months, there are going to be comings and goings.

But the "transfer game" can get tricky. Mark Gottfried was fired during the 2016-17 season because of a lack of roster stability. Gottfried was good at adding transfers, but he couldn't keep enough of his own recruits. The annual exodus was a rite of spring. Every year became a carousel, and for every good player that was added, one (or two, in the case of the Martin twins) was lost.

VIDEO: NC State Wolfpack new head basketball coach Kevin Keatts talks about recruiting during an introductory press conference at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, March 19, 2017.

The churn and lack of continuity caught up to Gottfried in Year 6. He wasn’t keeping, or developing, enough players (or winning enough).

Keatts, with his background at Hargrave Military Academy, has been nimble when it comes to roster adjustments. The recent addition of forward Wyatt Walker, a grad transfer from Samford, should help offset the loss of big man Omer Yurtserven, the most important of the four transfers to leave the program.

VIDEO: NC State's Omer Yurtseven talks about the difference between last season and this season after the Wolfpack's victory over Louisville at PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC Saturday, March 3, 2018.

But Keatts had to turn over the roster every year at the prep school. He doesn’t have to at N.C. State. Virginia, North Carolina and Notre Dame have combined to win four of the past five ACC titles. The common thread with their success has been roster stability. UNC and Notre Dame, in particular, have been able to develop and keep players together. All three have won with older rosters. You can't have an older roster if you keep losing transfers.

Keatts added transfers Devon Daniels and C.J. Bryce last spring with the future in mind. Daniels and Bryce, who sat out last season, are two of nine newcomers on the roster for the 2018-19 season. Four of the newcomers are transfers, including point guard Blake Harris (via Missouri), whose addition in January surely contributed to Batts' decision to leave.

Keatts has every right to build a roster to fit his style and system. Now he has to show he can develop this group and keep it together.

If the turnover on N.C. State’s roster recedes after this season, Keatts can mark this off as an aberration. If not, he could be headed for the same problems that cost Gottfried his job.

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski discusses issues around what he calls 'the rapidity of recruiting' during a press conference at the NCAA Tournament first round site in Pittsburgh.

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