App State calls foul over reaction to Graham situation
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Appalachian State's athletic department released a statement Friday that objects to some of the commentary regarding the situation regarding men's basketball recruit Devonte Graham.
Graham, who is from Raleigh, signed a nation letter of intent to play basketball at App State during the early signing period in November, 2012. Graham played well his senior season, which attracted the attention from larger schools, so he asked out of his letter to pursue any offers that might have been made.
Appalachian State head coach Jason Capel did not give Graham his release, which means that if Graham were to end his commitment on his own, NCAA rules dictate he would have to not play for at least two seasons.
"Over the past 24 hours, a handful of media members have offered their opinions on the situation between Appalachian State University's men's basketball program and Devonte Graham, a student-athlete who signed a binding NCAA National Letter of Intent to attend Appalachian State last November," the statement said.
What bothered the App State athletic department the most, according to the statement, is the use of the idea that Graham was being held "hostage" by the Mountaineers. The statement said that Graham "excitedly" signed the letter of intent, and that he could have waited until April to sign a letter if he felt a better offer would come along.
"We take particular exception to the unsubstantiated and irresponsible opinion of some media members that we are holding a student-athlete 'hostage,'" the statement said. "With his family's blessing and support, Devonte Graham willingly and excitedly chose to sign a National Letter of Intent with Appalachian State last November after having the opportunity to be recruited by 351 NCAA Division I programs.
"Furthermore, if he thought that a more desirable situation might arise in the future, he also had the option to wait until the late signing period in April to make his college choice. Since he chose to sign a binding Letter of Intent with Appalachian State, we stopped recruiting a large number of student-athletes at his position in his class who would have been grateful for the opportunity to receive a full scholarship to attend and play basketball at our great institution."
The statement also said that once Graham signed the letter, no other NCAA programs were permitted to talk with him, or anybody who represented him. It hinted that the NCAA rules were not followed by other institutions, and that App State has reported this to the NCAA.
The Fayetteville Observer cited an ESPN report that the school that is accused of tampering is North Carolina State. Wolfpack head coach Mark Godfried denied any tampering to ESPN.
"We absolutely didn't tamper," the Fayetteville Observer reported N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried saying to ESPN. "We had zero contact with the kid. He played with my son. I went out of my way not to (contact)."
The Observer also said it N.C. State had no other comment on the matter.
"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,'" the statement said. "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. We also made the NCAA aware of our concerns."
The statement concluded by saying that the athletic department will not have any further comment on the situation.