A year and a half ago, Southern Illinois forward Treg Setty found himself at a crossroads. After a rough 8-23 season, his head coach, Chris Lowery, had been fired, and his team was left in shambles. Out of his element and hundreds of miles from home, Setty felt like he needed a change.
“I just didn’t like my situation there, personally,” Setty said of his freshman year at Southern Illinois. “I decided to find myself something else.”
Having graduated from Mason County High School in Maysville, Kentucky, Setty wasn’t used to losing. A powerhouse in a state known for basketball, Setty won a state championship his freshman year and was a key contributor for the majority of his high school career.
“My favorite memory is probably my junior year, when we won the regional championship,” Setty said. “If you win the regional championship, it’s a pretty big deal. I was a big part of it.”
Despite playing poorly in the state tournament, Setty still caught the eye of Miami, OH, Ohio University, and Southern Illinois. Though he liked what Ohio had to offer, Setty fell in love with the Salukis.
“They were pretty good when I was growing up,” Setty said. “They made a lot of NCAA Tournaments and they went to a couple Sweet Sixteens. They were fresh on my mind.”
Hoping to keep his recruitment from becoming a distraction, Setty committed to Southern Illinois after his junior year.
“I felt like I needed to get something stable in my life that wasn’t changing. I wanted to get something solid,” Setty said. “I always felt like if I hadn’t committed so soon, I would’ve had more (offers) come my way.”
Setty arrived in Carbondale when many other Salukis were headed out the door. With many players transferring, he was forced into action quickly. While many freshman are granted a redshirt season to acclimate to Division I basketball, Setty was forced to learn on the fly.
“As a freshman, I don’t know if I should have been thrown into that situation,” said Setty. “I wasn’t as physically developed as I should have been.”
Though there were some bright spots, including a 20-point performance against Illinois State, Setty felt uncomfortable with his role on the team and the six hours between him and his family. But when he asked for a transfer, Southern Illinois told him no.
“I wasn’t doing my stuff in the classroom,” Setty said.
With a 2.5 GPA, Southern Illinois told Setty they couldn’t let him transfer for fear that they could face NCAA sanctions. The Academic Performance Rate, the test used by the NCAA to regulate graduation rates, requires transferring students to have a 2.6 GPA. Even though he was merely points away, he was stuck in Carbondale until he could get his grades up.
But Setty would catch a break. When CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman caught wind of his story, he came to his aid. He made Setty the focus of a scathing article centered on the NCAA’s transfer restrictions. Within days, Setty’s predicament had become a national story.
“He tweeted #FreeTregSetty and it just blew up,” Setty said. “It was all over, it was on the news. It was crazy.”
While the article ultimately helped Setty find the right situation for him, he does have regrets about how the situation was handled.
“I wish it wouldn’t have happened like that, because I burned a lot of bridges at SIU doing that,” he said. “But in the end, it worked in my benefit because it gave me some notoriety, and helped me spread my name and my cause a little bit.”
Despite the publicity, Setty still needed to get his grades up in order to become eligible to transfer. Through hard work and determination, he was able to achieve a 3.0 in his final semester at SIU, which was enough to qualify.
“I earned it,” Setty said. “I was proud of myself for pushing through.”
While Setty was working hard to make it out of Carbondale, Ohio assistant coach Anthony Stewart was working hard to bring him to Athens. A former assistant coach at SIU who lost his job along with Lowery, he had recently been hired by new Ohio head coach Jim Christian.
“We figured our assistants might stay with SIU,” Setty said. “But our coaches got fired and we kind of lost contact with them. When I got my release, I got a call from Coach Stew. I was surprised. I had no idea he came to OU.”
With Ohio already on Setty’s radar, it was easy to make the decision that he should have made two years earlier: he would become a Bobcat.
“I was thankful everything turned out great,” he said. “I was thankful to be able to get here.”
Because the NCAA requires transfer students to sit out a year before competing for their new team, Setty has yet to make his debut for the Bobcats. But he says that he has grown more in his year off than he has at any other point in his basketball career.
“I’ve learned to keep my head, keep my cool and just calm down a little bit,” he said. “I feel like once the season comes around next year I’ll be a lot more mature, at least a lot more than I was when I was a freshman or sophomore.”
When Setty finally sets foot on the court for Ohio, he will still be the youngest player on a very veteran Bobcat team. While that may mean taking a back seat, for Setty, that doesn’t bother him one bit.
“I think I’ll be a role player,” he says. “You know, take a charge here and there, grab some rebounds. When I’m out there, I just want to make some things happen.”
It is only a few weeks until he can finally step into that role. He’s counting down the days until he can finally cross that baseline and check into a game for the Ohio Bobcats. Only then will Treg Setty truly be free.