Players transfer for many reasons: academics, homesick, family issues, lack of playing time, conflicts with the coach, disciplinary reasons. I will not speculate on why a player left, though Riley states it is because of his ailing grandparents and homesickness, and being that his hometown is near Eastern Michigan, it makes sense. Obviously, having Rob Murphy as the new head coach there makes it more attractive to him.
I wish Riley the best of luck. He does resolve the scholarship issue Syracuse was going to have this upcoming season, but the lack of his 7’ frame off the bench will be missed. Having Fab Melo backed up by both Baye Keita and Riley would have been a luxury for the Orange, with the graduation of Rick Jackson. Syracuse could be fine with the development of just Melo and Keita, and having prized recruit Rakeem Christmas on the team this fall may completely hide the fact that Riley is gone.
Transfers follow many different paths upon leaving Syracuse. Some end up with very good collegiate careers for reputable Division I programs. This includes the likes of Rich Manning (who would get a taste of the NBA), Keith Hughes and Bobby Lazor. Others have success at smaller programs such as Tony Bland at San Diego State, Ramel Lloyd at Long Beach State, and Mike Sheehey at St. Bonaventure. Some fail to do any better at their new school, which includes the likes of Eric Williams (UMass), James Thues (Detroit-Mercy) and David Patrick. And some basically disappear upon the transfer: Billy Edelin and Mike Jones are recent examples.
I have a sense that Riley will do well at Eastern Michigan. He showed some promise his freshman year at Syracuse, and at 7’, he has the raw physical tools. Rob Murphy is an excellent assistant coach and a very good recruiter; if a decent team is built at EMU, Riley could have a solid college career. I do not see him being in the NBA, but that’s just statistical probability; it’s very tough getting there.