By Jesse Wood
May 2, 2014. Initially an Appalachian State men’s basketball commit before new head coach Jim Fox granted his release, Devonte Graham has signed with the Kansas Jayhawks, according to ESPN.com.
To go from the Mountaineers program that went 9-21 in 2013-14 to the Jayhawks, one of the top college basketball programs in the nation is quite a jump for Graham, something he alluded to in a quote to ESPN.com.
“It’s kind of crazy to go from Appalachian State to Kansas,” Graham said.
Appalachian State Athletics became embroiled in a media frenzy whenever the program was accused of holding Graham “hostage,” something ASU denied and specifically took “particular exception” to in a statement last September.
Graham was described as an in-state hidden gem on the recruiting trail after he committed to Appalachian State in November 2012 because he played exceptionally well at the prep school Brewster Academy last season. He then began to receive interest from established basketball programs like Butler, Wichita State and University of Connecticut – the latter of which won the NCAA Tournament this year.
Because Graham had already committed to ASU, he wasn’t allowed to have contact with other schools. After former head coach Jason Capel wouldn’t release Graham from his letter of intent, his prep coach at Brewster Academy began venting Graham’s frustration to the media, which then caused a firestorm on mainstream sports blogs across the nation for a few days last September – leading to the statement from ASU Athletics.
“As our coaching staff fully expected, Devonte had a terrific senior season last winter and, accordingly, drew the interest of programs from what are widely recognized as ‘power conferences.’ However, due to his binding agreement with Appalachian State, other programs were not permitted by NCAA rules to contact him, be it directly or through people claiming to represent his interests. Due to our concerns that these rules were not followed and the fact that we had turned away all other potential student-athletes that could have capably filled his spot on the roster, we denied his request for a release from his binding Letter of Intent,” portions of the statement read.
As ESPN.com reported, Capel and his staff thought that N.C. State University may have “tampered with Graham while he was signed” because Graham played on the same high school team that N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried’s son played on. Gottfried denied those allegations to ESPN.com.
Whenever the Mountaineers’ dismal season concluded at the beginning of March, Capel’s four-year contract wasn’t renewed and the Mountaineers then hired Jim Fox away from Davidson College, where Fox was an associate head coach. Among the first things that Fox did was release Graham from his commitment.
On Thursday, a spot on the Kansas Jayhawks’ roster for Graham opened after it was announced that Jayhawks’ starting point guard Naadir Tharpe was going to transfer to another school.
“I think that was part of it,” Graham told ESPN.com. “[Tharpe] was a big part of their program and played a lot. If he had stayed, I’m not sure if I would be going to Kansas.”
“I’m someone who can run a team and also can score,” he said, “but I look to get everyone involved and try and be a leader as a point guard.”