In his first decade at Webster University, men’s basketball coach Chris Bunch said he never had one of his players transfer up a division to play basketball. But prior to the start of the 2012-2013 season — Bunch’s 11th at Webster — two players elected to transfer to NCAA Division-II universities.
Stefan Whittingham said he transferred to Lincoln University (Pa.) in the fall of 2012 “to pursue a higher performance of play.” Whittingham led the Gorloks in scoring and rebounding as a sophomore last season en route to being named the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year for 2011-2012.
Willie Trimble transferred to California State University, Los Angeles this past fall to play basketball on a full-ride scholarship. Trimble didn’t play for Webster last season, but in 2010-2011, the point guard led the Gorloks in points, assists and steals. He helped Webster obtain a 20-7 overall record (13-3 SLIAC) and a conference tournament championship.
The Gorloks managed to scrape together a decent 2011-2012 season without the aid of Trimble, as they finished 13-13 overall (13-3 SLIAC) before being upset in the SLIAC tournament semifinals by No. 4-seeded MacMurray College (Ill.). A significant portion of the team’s success should be attributed to Whittingham, who emerged as the Gorloks’ go-to player in his first season as a full-fledged starter.
Webster has once again made the necessary adjustments to stay in the thick of the SLIAC race this season. With three conference games to go, the Gorloks are 11-11 overall and 8-5 in SLIAC play, which places them in a fourth-place tie with MacMurray. The top four teams in the standings qualify for the SLIAC tournament, where, as we saw just a season ago, anything is possible.
But this certainly hasn’t been the banner year that it could have been for the Gorloks. Whittingham and Trimble are long gone, but I can’t help but think what might have transpired had the duo played for Webster this season.
A starting lineup featuring all transfer players — Whittingham, Trimble, seniors Roman Robinson and Dietrick Sooter, and sophomore Aaron Griffin — would have been a possibility for the Gorloks. Of course, when examined this way, Webster has been on both the giving and receiving ends of the transfer spectrum.
The men’s basketball squad isn’t the only Webster program affected by transfers in 2012-2013. The second-leading scorer on the women’s basketball team, senior Gwen Williams, transferred to Webster in the fall of 2011. And sophomore transfer Jamie Buehrig was a low-post force for the Gorloks during a 10-game stretch earlier this season.
During the fall, sophomore volleyball player Sam Kersting, who transferred from Division-I Indiana State University, led the SLIAC in hitting percentage and blocks per set. She was named to the All-America third team and the All-Region first team.
Women’s soccer player Ally Nikolaus, who transferred from D-I Ole Miss in 2011, tallied 11 goals and 10 assists for a team-high 32 points this past season. Men’s soccer transfer Mike Wells scored a team-best 8 goals for the Gorloks.
This spring, a host of incoming baseball players — including junior shortstop Ryan Hall — will have an opportunity to immediately impact the program. Last season, transfer players like Alex Kazmierski, Mitchell Bonds and Cody Hafeli helped key the Gorloks’ run to the College World Series.
Women’s tennis player Marissa Lewis, who compiled an 18-3 singles record and a 16-3 doubles record as a freshman last season, transferred to D-II Tusculum College (Tenn.) for the spring 2013 semester.
The success incoming transfers have had at Webster this past year doesn’t come as a huge surprise. But the number of student athletes transferring up a division to play sports is a bit out of the ordinary. The odds are that this is just coincidental and cyclical, but it’s certainly something worth monitoring these next couple years.