Andrien White’s announcement last week that he’s leaving the Charlotte 49ers basketball program means new coach Ron Sanchez still has work to do in finalizing his roster for the 2018-19 season.
White’s exit opens up the 49ers’ 13th and final scholarship spot, one Sanchez says might now be filled by a fifth-year grad transfer. But if a suitable player — presumably now a shooting guard in an attempt to replace White — doesn’t materialize, Sanchez said he’d also be comfortable saving that scholarship for next season.
“We’re still looking at a few players,” Sanchez said. “Maybe a fifth-year, if the right one is available. But I might hold (the available scholarship) and take it into ’19 unless the right kid shows up. So unless it’s somebody that good, we’re going to keep focusing on the ’19 class.”
Charlotte lost three players after interim coach Houston Fancher was fired and replaced by Sanchez in March. Incoming freshman Isaiah Bigelow got his release from Charlotte and signed with Wofford. Sophomore guard Ryan Murphy then announced he would leave the program, signing recently with New Mexico Junior College.
White, who had withdrawn his name from the NBA draft two days earlier, said last Wednesday he will transfer to play his senior season elsewhere (after he sits out a year).
White, Murphy and Bigelow were all recruited by former coach Mark Price (two other Price recruits — guard Cooper Robb and forward Dravon Mangum — are sticking with the 49ers).
Transfers after a coaching change are common and underscore the fact that players are often attracted more by the coach who recruited them than the school itself. The defense-first system Sanchez is installing is also drastically different from anything the 49ers have played before, making the transition that much more stark.
Still, three starters are back from last season’s team, which at 6-23 failed to qualify for the Conference USA tournament. Four starting spots for next season could be set, depending on how the players react to Sanchez and his new system: Senior Jon Davis at point guard, junior Najee Garvin at small forward, sophomore Milos Supica at power forward and senior Jailan Haslem at center. Sophomore Bryant Thomas is another possibility at forward and sophomore Jaylan McGill will back up Davis.
But the departures of White and Murphy blew a sizeable hole in the 49ers’ shooting guard position. Sophomore Luka Vasic, who started nine games last season, averaging 3.8 points and making 40 percent of his 3-point attempts, is the remaining shooting guard with the most experience.
Sanchez signed two high school guards — Brandon Younger of Marietta, Ga., and Malik Miller of Staten Island, N.Y. — who could potentially contribute right away. Point guard Jordan Shepherd transferred from Oklahoma (where he played behind star freshman Trae Young last season), and will sit out next season.
Sanchez at least isn’t faced with the roster turnover Price had when he was hired three years ago. Four key players from the 2014-15 team (guards Keyshawn Woods and Torin Dorn, forward Willie Clayton and center Mike Thorne) transferred after former coach Alan Major was let go, and incoming freshman Ebuka Izundu was released from his scholarship and instead went to Miami.
David Scott: @davidscott14