â€œAbove the restâ€ is the official slogan of the Mountain West Conference.
While the slogan may be accurate in terms of altitude of the leagueâ€™s nine member institutions, itâ€™s generally not the overall case when it comes to athletics.
But for Colorado State head basketball coach Tim Miles, he sees the MWC as the next best thing, and uses the leagueâ€™s national prominence as a key pitch when trying to recruit players who are transferring from other NCAA Division I schools.
â€œIf you look at a guy who goes to the highest level, one of your next best options, if youâ€™re not going to play there, is the Mountain West Conference,â€ Miles said. â€œItâ€™s a way to get a player you probably couldnâ€™t get out of high school, but knows the regimentation of a D-I program and can obviously play basketball.â€
Since his first season in 2007-08, Miles has successfully recruited five players who formerly played at a Division I school: Marcus Walker (Nebraska), Dan Vandervieren (Purdue), Travis Busch (Minnesota), Andy Ogide (Ole Miss) and Wes Eikmeier (Iowa State).
And if there was any question about whether or not these transfers were effective players, Walker, a guard, led the Rams in scoring during both the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, while seven games into his senior year, Ogide leads CSU with 17.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. All five have started at least seven career games.
Ogide, who left Ole Miss following the 2006-07 season due to disagreements with Rebelsâ€™ head coach Andy Kennedy, said because of his relationship with CSU assistant coach Niko Medved, it was an easy decision for him to end up in Fort Collins, Colo. And though there was some early frustration on his part, as the Rams only won a combined 16 games in Ogideâ€™s first two years on campus, he feels the choice paid off.
â€œIt was tough at first when I wasnâ€™t seeing the progress I had hoped for,â€ said Ogide, who is shooting an impressive 62 percent from the field this season. â€œBut now weâ€™re on the verge of making it to the top, I know I made the right decision.â€
But landing Division I transfers can be a high-risk scenario as each is required by NCAA regulations to sit out a full season before becoming eligible to play; therefore, taking up a scholarship spot with no guarantee that the player will amount to a valuable asset.
Auburn transfer Boubacar Sylla only stayed one season at Wyoming and former Arizona State guard Steve Jones averaged only 1.5 points per game as a senior in 2009-10 at UNLV.
Though CSU may have gotten a bit lucky with its transfers, Miles is perfectly happy with second hand talent that is far from second rate.
â€œWe look forward to Division I transfers,â€ Miles said. â€œAndy (Ogide) has been really good for us, Wes Eikmeier, Travis Busch â€¦ weâ€™ve had some guys that have made a good impact on our program and weâ€™ll continue to consider that as a mode of recruitment.â€
Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.