The Bubba Parham example: And how nobody wins in the end

vmi basketballBubba Parham has every right to see what else is out there in terms of his education and his athletics career.

We can grant that.

But while a kid like Parham, who led the SoCon in scoring as a sophomore at VMI in 2018-2019, scoring 21.4 points a game, has the phone ringing off the hook within hours of entering the transfer portal, the program he’s leaving behind is back at square one.

VMI isn’t going to just find a transfer to fill the huge roster spot left open by the departure of Parham, the SoCon freshman of the year in 2017-2018, and a second-team all-conference selection this past season.

The academics at a school like VMI make it hard for coach Dan Earl to just slide another kid into his spot.

Which is to say, VMI isn’t a place where the athletics side tells the folks in admissions, let this kid in, or let that kid in, so we can win some games.

VMI was the only school to offer Parham, a 5’11” guard from Georgia, out of high school.

From the moment he dropped 35 on Kentucky in a 92-82 loss in November, you had to think this was a possibility.

Parham ended up committing to Georgia Tech, where he will have to sit out a year, under NCAA transfer rules, before suiting up in 2020-2021 to play for Josh Pastner.

OK, maybe he’ll get to play for Josh Pastner. Pastner’s tenure at Georgia Tech is under a cloud, with the NCAA, in March, putting the program under a formal Notice of Allegations after an investigation into its recruiting practices.

This, for a guy who is 48-53 overall and 20-34 in the ACC in three seasons at Georgia Tech, which hasn’t been to an NCAA Tournament since 2010, two coaches ago now.

Another sub-.500 season for a coach whose program is under an NCAA investigation could lead to another change at the top, and leave kids like Parham lost in the shuffle of another coach wanting to rebuild with guys who fit his system and philosophy.

Meanwhile, VMI basketball soldiers on without a kid that its coach took a rider on, and helped develop into being the kind of kid to get phone calls from all over when he becomes a free agent.

None of it seems fair to anybody involved.

Column by Chris Graham

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.


The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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