What would UCF’s roster look like?
That was the biggest immediate question following the Aug. 2 NCAA Committee on Infractions report on Central Florida’s wide-ranging infractions, which included the use of a really dumb third-party agent (this guy, if you can believe it). It resulted in severe NCAA penalties, including a one-year ban from the NCAA tournament. Because of the postseason ban, UCF players would receive a one-time transfer reprieve allowing them to move to any school in the country. Without even the possibility of an NCAA tournament bid, would much, if any, of UCF’s roster -- including star forward Keith Clanton and mercurial guard Marcus Jordan -- stick around?
The answer, as UCF announced in release Monday -- and as Clanton tweeted Saturday night -- is both yes and no.
I think to people'ssurprise I will be returning to UCF for my Sr. season I love this team and my dreams and goals can be fulfilled here
— Keith Clanton (@Im_Keithclanton) August 19, 2012
Despite this being his last season in college hoops, and despite having no chance of competing in the sport’s marquee championship, and despite what was surely a large and eager market for his services, Clanton’s loyalty eventually won out. That’s admirable, because it would have been easy to leave. Everyone, UCF fans included, would have understood. But Clanton is standing by coach Donnie Jones and his teammates; sticking around near his family proved to be a more powerful incentive than potential one-year tournament glory. As Andy wrote this morning, that such a decision comes as a surprise probably says more about the nomadic nature of college hoops than it does Keith Clanton.
In the meantime, the loss of Marcus Jordan is a mixed bag. Few UCF players have shown as much potential in the past two seasons. When Jordan was at his best – as he was in a very productive 2010–11 nonconference slate, when UCF opened 14–0 and toppled Florida, Miami and Princeton – he showed the skills to be a major impact player at the Division I level. But Jordan has never really grown into a larger role. He was merely good as a junior.
Perhaps more importantly, Jordan has never seemed all that interested in basketball in the first place. In 2010, his tweets about a massive night out in Las Vegas – when he said he and his brother Jeffrey Jordan spent $35,000 at a Vegas nightclub; Jordan was 19 at the time – caused an investigation at the Nevada Gaming Control Board. In 2011, the Jordan brothers were two of five players held out of an exhibition game for violations of team rules. This offseason, Jordan was arrested in Omaha, Neb. following a disturbance outside a downtown hotel, when “police responding to a call at the Embassy Suites found hotel security trying to subdue Marcus Jordan, who was having an argument with two women in the hotel driveway at 2:11 a.m. … Jordan was ‘very animated, intoxicated and uncooperative,’ and it took multiple officers to control and handcuff him." This was accompanied by widely publicized Internet rumors that Jordan was planning to forgo his senior season at UCF to get a head start on his professional career, whether as a basketball player overseas or in other business ventures. Jordan’s decision, as announced Monday, should come as no surprise.
And he’s not the only player leaving. According to UCF, fellow seniors Josh Crittle and C.J. Reed are also leaving the program; their destinations are as yet unknown.
Still, Jones has to be pleased with the overall roster news. He managed to retain Clanton -- without question his most important player -- as well as contributors Isaiah Sykes and Tristan Spurlock. He also welcomes a batch of transfers to the program, including former Oklahoma player Calvin Newell.
Taken as a whole, it’s not clear UCF will be measurably worse than they were last season, when they finished 22–11 overall and 10–6 in Conference USA play. Given the depths this program was sentenced to by the NCAA less than a month ago – a postseason ban, recruiting restrictions and a free pass for any and all transfers to leave the program is about as close to a “death sentence” as the NCAA gets these days -- Jones and Co. could be, and arguably should be, much worse off.