MORGANTOWN — In 2003, all Mike Gansey was looking for in a basketball future was the opportunity for some playing time and maybe having a crack at playing in the postseason.
“I was always very realistic with myself,” said Gansey, who will be inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame on Sept. 22. “I had dreams like everyone else of making it to the NBA, but I wasn’t looking for some school to get me there. I just wanted to find a place where I could be comfortable and maybe have a shot at the (NCAA) tournament.”
He instead found a second home and a Hall of Fame college career, one that turned into two near-legendary trips to the NCAA tournament.
WVU advanced to the 2005 Elite Eight with Gansey scoring 29 points in a storied double-overtime win against second-seeded Wake Forest and star guard Chris Paul to help the Mountaineers get there.
In 2006, Gansey helped WVU advance to the Sweet 16. In two seasons at WVU, Gansey scored 976 points and connected on 119 3-pointers.
“What I found was really one of the greatest places in the world,” said Gansey, now the assistant general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers. “Even when I travel now, I see people with West Virginia stuff on and it gives me a great sense of pride. I have two cousins going to school there now and I never told them one thing to push them there, but I think everyone in my family already knows how much WVU means to me.”
Gansey played two seasons at St. Bonaventure, before an academic scandal, which eventually cost then-head coach Jan van Breda Kolff his job, was uncovered during Gansey’s sophomore season.
With the Bonnies facing NCAA probation and a possible postseason ban, Gansey looked to change schools.
A few years later, it is the kind of story that gets told a lot in the NCAA, especially in men’s basketball, where statistics show that 40 percent of incoming freshmen will not be with their original school by their junior season.
Behind all of those transfers have now come new rules and regulations to govern everything from when schools can withdraw a scholarship from an athlete who transfers to creating a database that coaches can use to recruit an athlete who is looking for a new school.
As one who scouts college players for a living, Gansey is up to date on transfer trends. And though his own college success story isn’t told without a transfer tale, Gansey isn’t sure the number of transfers today is good for the game or the athletes.
“It’s become a transfer market now. It’s really kind of unbelievable,” he said. “Patience sort of gets lost in it all. Everybody wants to be an NBA player right away, or they want to be a starter or a 20-point scorer right away.
“It takes time. You’re supposed to go in as a freshman and work hard and work your way up. Well, that’s all been lost. So now, you see a lot of kids simply transfer because they see a better opportunity someplace else. That’s not always the best thing for anyone, really.”
Gansey is not about to place blame and realizes each situation is different. “Like with my situation, we were going to go on probation. We had to forfeit all of our wins my sophomore year and van Breda Kolff was let go.”
Still, he admits it can set off a few red flags to NBA general managers when scouting a player who attended a number of high schools and colleges.
“To me, college is supposed to be hard,” he said. “You’re away from home for the first time. You’re lifting weights for the first time. You’re in a big atmosphere for the first time. You know, how are you going to handle adversity? Are you going to run away from it or are you going to fight through it and stick to it? I don’t really have the answers on what kids should do, but I wish there could be a little more patience involved.”
Gansey joked he would probably show little patience on his induction day, which will also include former WVU football stars Pat White, Steve Slaton and Avon Cobourne.
He’d like to go first.
“It’s all kind of unreal to me still,” he said. “Going in there with guys like Pat White and Steve Slaton; I went to school with them. I know how much they meant to WVU.
“They will be a tough act to follow, so maybe I should go pretty early.”