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ASU Volleyball: Transfers have been key to the Sun Devils season

(Photo: Jacob Franklin/WCSN)

One key component to success at the college level as a program in any sport is the ability to recruit. Landing a major recruit coming out of high school can start the process of turning around a program, or continue a program’s dominance.

Recruiting high school seniors and landing a top freshman recruit is a big deal for colleges. But what about transfers?

Although they fly under the radar more often than not, transfers are a very important part of the recruiting process. They can make immediate impacts, especially in the game of volleyball.

The college transfer rules in volleyball are different than most sports because, in some cases, the transfer can play immediately in the next season, instead of having to sit out a year. That is the case for the four Arizona State University transfers: senior outside hitter Maya McClendon, junior middle blocker Oluoma Okaro, sophomore setter Caroline Pearson and sophomore middle blocker Carmen Unzue.

McClendon is a transfer from the University of Louisville, Okaro from the University of San Francisco, Pearson from the University of Denver and Unzue from American University.

All four of these players transferred from their previous colleges just a year ago, and are now playing for the Sun Devils. Each one has seen the court at some point throughout this season.

A player will transfer schools for many reasons. A common thread for all four of the Sun Devil transfers is academics.

“There are a variety of different majors that I can choose from,” Okaro said. “That definitely had a big impact.”

Pearson shared similar ideas on deciding her path.

“I was really unsure about my major,” Pearson said. “Denver didn’t have the field I wanted to go into, so that was another big thing I really wanted to consider.”

And for McClendon, there was even more of an emphasis on academics.

“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, so going into my senior year, I thought it really important to actually start pursuing that,” the senior transfer said. “I want to go into osteopathic and naturopathic medicine. To be a naturopathic doctor, you can’t be licensed in Kentucky, but in Arizona you can. When this opportunity presented itself, it was like the stars had aligned.”

A coaching change also caused two of the Sun Devil transfers, Okaro and Pearson, to think about making the change in schools.

“The primary thing was a coaching change,” Okaro said. “The coaches who recruited me transferred to a different school as well.”

It can be tough for an athlete to stay at a school when the coach they originally committed to does not stay.

Pearson experienced a similar situation.

“The coach left. He was the reason I committed there,” Pearson said. “I was just really unsure about the new coaching staff.”

Regardless of the reason why they came to ASU, the four transfers are making a big impact for the Sun Devils this season.

Unzue has seen the court the least of the four transfers, but has been effective when she gets in, as she ranks fourth on the team in blocks per set and has not committed a blocking error this season.

Her most notable game came on Oct. 15th against the Stanford Cardinal where she finished with three kills and a hitting percentage of .429.

Pearson did not start for the Sun Devils in their first weekend tournament, but was inserted into the starting lineup in their second weekend tournament, where she totaled 116 assists and 34 digs through three games on her way to garnering all-tournament team honors. Pearson currently sits second on the team in total assists with 250 and assists per set with 5.95.

McClendon has seen lots of playing time this year, starting in some matches and coming off the bench for others.

She made an immediate impact for the Sun Devils, tallying 37 kills and posting a hitting percentage of .349 through the first three games. She is one of just two players for the Sun Devils with more than 100 kills and 100 digs.

Okaro has made the biggest impact of the transfers and, arguably, of the entire team.

The junior transfer has totaled double digit kills in 12 games this season, including a season-high 19 on Sept. 10th against Long Beach State. She leads the team in kills with 263. Okaro has also provided an impact in other facets of the game, including blocks, where she leads the team with 107, and service aces, where she leads the team with 37.

There is no question that high school recruits get much more publicity than college transfers. High school recruits get a lot of attention, while college transfers, more often than not, fly under the radar.

But they shouldn’t. Especially in the case of the four transfers for the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Although ASU is having a sub-par season by its standards, it could be having an even worse season if it were not to have its transfers who have provided great production this season.

These transfers who have received below average publicity have been anything but below average for the Sun Devils.

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