LEARY: Motives behind shocking McKay transfer remain unclear

learycolorWEBEleven days ago, I sunk into a folding chair on the court of the Al McGuire Center next to Marquette junior forward Jameel McKay.

McKay and I talked for roughly four minutes. The 6-foot-8-inch transfer from Indian Hills Community College thought he would fit in well with Marquette’s deep and experienced frontcourt. He felt his rebounding would complement the offense of Davante Gardner and defense of Chris Otule down low.

McKay showed the most passion when he talked, rather, gushed about how it would feel to play in front of his hometown fans for the first time as a collegiate athlete. The Milwaukee native starred at Pulaski High School and told me he found the opportunity to play here again “hard to turn down.”

But somehow, all of that changed.

Thursday, McKay took to Twitter (@ShowTime_McKay) to break the news. “After a long talk with family I will be transferring from MU great place and program now I’m looking forward to searching for a new Home.” He continued in a second tweet, “I appreciate the coaching staff and fans no hard feeling at all GoodLuck to them this year!”

Six days after McKay sat with me at media day and raved about how excited he was to play for Buzz and the Golden Eagles, he chose to give all of that up and transfer. How could that have happened?

Playing time must have been a major factor. Jamil Wilson should play at least thirty minutes per game at the four for Marquette this year. With Gardner slimmed down a bit, he should see an increase in his minutes as well. If Steve Taylor’s recovery from off-season knee surgery continues to progress, he could see the majority of the back-up big man minutes.

Maybe McKay saw that and felt he wouldn’t play enough. As Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, McKay was behind Wilson, Gardner, Otule and Taylor on Marquette’s depth chart.

But looking at 2014-15, that theory starts to crack. By next season, Otule, Gardner and Wilson will have moved on, leaving just Taylor and maybe Juan Anderson in the Golden Eagles frontcourt. McKay, if he lived up to his junior college All-American billing, would have found plenty of post minutes on that team.

Could Marquette’s incoming freshman class for 2014-15 have factored into McKay’s decision? After all, the four commits stand between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-7 and the most recent, 6-foot-6 Canadian forward Marial Shayok, announced his intentions later the same day. McKay probably had some inkling that announcement was coming. However, if he knew anything about how freshmen typically fit into Buzz Williams’ program, he would not have felt nervous about his role next season, provided he did something to assert himself this year.

So what drove McKay away from the program he was seemingly so excited to play for? We may never get a straight answer, but some sort of irreparable conflict with Williams over 2013-14 playing time seems the likeliest of explanations. Regardless of why he left, Marquette will have to move forward down one big man before the season even begins.

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