What if a player transferred from Indiana to Purdue? From North Carolina to Duke? From Georgetown to Syracuse? Honestly, can you imagine?
Imagine no longer. Utah redshirt freshman Josh Sharp -- who is transferring to Utah's sworn in-state rival BYU -- just made things real.
Here's the deal: Sharp signed with Utah in 2008, sat out a season as a redshirt, then went on a two-year Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mission to Houston. When he returned from his mission this week, Sharp -- whose former coach, Jim Boylen, was fired by Utah earlier this spring -- decided that he'd prefer to make a move to Provo and play for the Cougars. Because he's already spent two years away from the game, Sharp will be able to play for BYU right away.
Needless to say, rumors of Sharp's transfer did not make new Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak a very happy camper. Last Friday, Krystkowiak released a statement accusing BYU of "taking advantage of a loophole" by recruiting Sharp while he was away on mission:
"It is my understanding that there is an unwritten rule that players cannot be recruited by other schools while they are serving missions. To do so is not only inappropriate, but it creates an atmosphere of ill will," Krystkowiak continued. "We hope that Josh returns to our team and wants to be part of what we are building here, but regardless of what happens, we remain strongly committed to recruiting the best players in the state of Utah."
"An atmosphere of ill will." It is called the Holy War, coach. I'd say ill will is nothing new here.
Just what kind of player are the Cougars getting? Sharp wasn't highly recruited out of high school, and he's yet to play a game at the collegiate level, so maybe this is much ado about nothing? Not so, says Boylen, who told The Dagger's Jeff Eisenberg that Sharp is underrated and capable of competing at the high-major level right away:
"I'm saying this humbly, but he was poorly evaluated coming out of high school," Boylen said. "I thought he was a high-major guy like J.J. O'Brien. He's one of the best guys we recruited in the four years I was there. We had him penciled in as a starter coming back. Again penciled in, but he was a guy who was going to compete for a position."
Maybe Sharp will be able to contribute right away. More likely is he'll need some time to adjust to the college game after his mission, same as any other player who spends two years away from the game.
Whatever Sharp's redshirt freshman season looks like, losing a player to a transfer is never fun. Losing that player to your arch nemesis, one founded by the same religious entity (the LDS church, naturally) and one that has dominated the hoops rivalry in recent seasons ... well, yeah, that stings. A lot. Utah and BYU are both changing conferences this season -- Utah is headed to the Pac-12, BYU to the West Coast Conference -- but this rivalry remains alive and well, and Sharp should have plenty of moments caught smack in its middle.