Does Villanova need a point guard? Wake Forest transfer Tony Chennault seems to be hoping that answer is in the affirmative. To aid his case, he appears to be setting the stage to have immediate eligibility.
Tyrone Johnson was inexperienced as a freshman floor general, but worked his way into the role of Maalik Wayns' primary understudy by mid-season. Ryan Arcidiacono will be a freshman ball-handler entering the program in the fall with plenty of AAU and high school-hype. The talent is there, barring the unexpected, for at least one of those two players to become the Wildcats' primary ball-handle — eventually.
"Each guy has a unique story why they’re not where they are [supposed to be], you know, and its not all their own fault," explained Jay Wright. That includes Johnson, whose broken foot held him out of summer workouts and the team's preseason tour of Europe. That slowed the freshman's development, and Jay Wright's trust in him to run the team.
Tony Chennault would offer a safety valve for the Wildcats — an experienced high-major point guard who can provide some minutes in relief or start games if Johnson isn't ready. That value is largely negated if standard NCAA transfer rules apply, however. If Chennault has to sit out for a season, he would be in the same class as Johnson, and no more experienced.
To that end, it appears that both he and the Wake Forest program are setting up a record for a hardship waiver case — the process that would allow him to play at a new school next season while staying in Division 1.
"His mom's not the most well person in the world," his high-school coach, Carl Arrigale told the Winston-Salem Journal. "And sometimes when he comes home, I think it hits him."
"We honored Tony's request to transfer to a school nearby his home so he can tend to his family responsibilities," Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said.
His mother's actual illness was not disclosed, but it appears that family health concerns will be the basis for a hardship waiver application for Chennault. Those sort of situations have worked for players in the past.
Some people call it the "Tyler Smith rule" after Tyler Smith, who was granted one in 2007, when he transferred from Iowa to Tennessee, because his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Smith's case was certainly legitimate, and sadly his father passed before his season started, however, it isn't always used so honestly.
Herb Pope landed at Seton Hall from New Mexico State, requesting a waiver to be closer to his daughter in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania — seven hours away from the Seton Hall campus. Pope's waiver was rejected.
When there is some reasonable evidence to support the waiver, however, the NCAA's tendency has been to grant them. Even when an observer would suspect there was an alternative reason for the transfer.
Lamont "Momo" Jones was granted a waiver to allow him to play this season at Iona after transferring from Arizona because, he told the NCAA, he wanted to be closer to his New York City home to tend to his sick grandmother. Many think he was more concerned about the highly-touted recruiting class coming in at Arizona.
Da'Shonte Riley was allowed a waiver upon his transfer from Syracuse to Eastern Michigan because of health issues related to his grandparents in Detroit. That was despite the fact that he chose the EMU Eagles largely to follow former Syracuse assistant Rob Murphy to the MAC school.
In Chennault's case, the closest Division 1 school to his home would be La Salle, but according to his high school coach at Neumann-Goretti, the Explorers won't he high on his list.
"I know he won't go to La Salle because it's too close to home. La Salle is right down the street from his home. But he'll take a look at the other city schools, I'm sure, first, and then see if there's some place he fits."
If he hopes to receive a waiver to play immediately, of course, attending La Salle won't be necessary, but he would have to choose a school within a reasonable distance of Philadelphia.
Chennault initially committed to Wake Forest over offers from Pittsburgh, Providence, St. Joseph's, Virginia and Villanova. Providence, Pittsburgh and Virginia may not be close enough to home for a waiver application to be successful, but Villanova and St. Joseph's would be. Villanova was apparently his second choice after Wake.
"I'm sure he's going to explore that," Arrigale said.
Despite the fact that some believe the transfer decision was driven by the impending arrival of Codi Miller-McIntyre, a highly-ranked point guard in Wake's 2012 class, the NCAA might grant his waiver if there is real evidence of his mother's health concerns.
The degree to which Villanova is interested in Chennault isn't currently known. Jay Wright always seems to be on the look-out for another ball-handler, but might not be in a position to guarantee a starting role or a certain number of minutes. Chennault is the type of guard that succeeds at Villanova, however, driving to the hoop and scoring inside or getting to the foul line. That isn't something Ty Johnson showed much of this season.
With two scholarships available for 2012-13, there really is no harm in adding an experienced player through a transfer, but the fit for a player who may be expecting to start is certainly in question. With a hardship waiver allowing him to play immediately, Chennault could step in at Villanova and provide something immediately.