Recruiting is a huge component of college athletics. Two years ago, Cal Poly Athletics spent $325,472 on recruiting alone. This money primarily goes to the main duties of recruiting — visiting high school athletes to get a verbal or written commitment to play for the Mustangs.

Another aspect of recruiting is looking for talent from junior colleges or receiving interest from players at other universities across the country.

It’s this area of recruiting that men’s basketball head coach Joe Callero and company excel in.

Of the eight collegiate men’s sports at Cal Poly (that excludes the cross country and track teams due to player overlap), the men’s basketball team is miles ahead of the others in regards to transfer players. Callero and his staff lead a team this season comprised of 40 percent transfer players. The next closest team, baseball, has a roster for the 2016-2017 year that is 18 percent transfer players. Two men’s teams, tennis and swimming and diving, don’t have any transfer players this year.

This season, four players have played in every basketball game for the Mustangs: senior guards Kyle Toth and Ridge Shipley, sophomore guard Donovan Fields and junior forward Luke Miekle. Excluding Shipley, the group is all transfer players.

The top four scorers this season are all transfers: Toth (11.1 points per game), Fields (9.9), Meikle (9.7) and junior guard Victor Joseph (9.2). Include junior forward Josh Martin’s 10.8 points per game before his injury and the top five scorers came to Cal Poly from another school.

Some of the players have transferred from community or junior colleges. Toth transferred from Foothill College, junior guard Josh Mishler from Saddleback College, Joseph from Chaffey College, Fields from Odessa College and sophomore forward Jakub Niziol from Howard College. Others have transferred from other four-year universities as well, as Martin transferred from the University of Minnesota and Meikle from Gonzaga.

It isn’t too surprising Callero has assembled a team with transfers included. NCAA data puts the average percentage of transfers on any given four-year college team at roughly 28 percent for the 2015-2016 year. Besides men’s soccer, men’s basketball has the highest rate of transfer in collegiate sports.

But it is surprising the Cal Poly men’s basketball team is well above average in terms of transfer players, and even more unusual is that those transfers are some of the biggest contributors. The system of transferring from community or junior colleges and immediately playing for the university is a simple process, as Mishler, Joseph, Fields, Toth and Niziol all could start playing as soon as they enrolled at Cal Poly.

For Meikle and Martin, each of them had to “complete a year in residence,” or a year at Cal Poly without playing basketball. Despite this year without playing for the Mustangs, Meikle has been a mainstay at forward this season, as was Martin before his injury in November.

Callero has a history of developing transfer students; recently, former transfer guard David Nwaba, originally from Santa Monica College before coming to Cal Poly, signed with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA Development League and has averaged 11 points and six rebounds per game in his rookie season so far.

With this team of transfers, the Mustangs are an anomaly compared to a lot of teams they’ll play this season. Players in the Big West Conference usually spend all four years on the same team.

After starting the season 5-4, the Mustangs currently find themselves on the wrong end of an eight-game losing streak. With a 5-12 record, 0-8 in their last eight games, Callero thinks an improvement in execution is the key to turning the season around.

“The only way this team is going to get better is to play more games under fire,” Callero said after a loss to Cal State Fullerton last Thursday. “We need game reps. We’re going to go through some growing pains, but we don’t want to go through them for
much longer.”

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