January 26, 2009

Cousins college choice coming soon

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – After committing to UAB a year ago, DeMarcus Cousins made a unique request last fall.

The 6-foot-11 senior forward/center from Mobile (Ala.) LeFlore wanted an addendum written into his national letter of intent that would have enabled him to escape if coach Mike Davis were to get fired or leave the school for another reason.

"They just wasn't having it," Cousins said Jan. 19 after he had 17 points and 20 rebounds as LeFlore, No. 7 in the RivalsHigh 100, topped No. 64 Brooklyn Lincoln 67-54. "They didn't agree to it."

Now Cousins says he and UAB are finished and he will commit to another school in the spring.

"I have nothing to do with UAB, but I still do have a relationship with Coach Davis," Cousins said. "If he gets another job, I'll be considering [that school]."

Memphis coach John Calipari was in attendance at Springfield College for the Lincoln game, and the Tigers appear to be the leader for the services of Cousins, the No. 1-ranked power forward and No. 2 player in the class of 2009.

"Right now everybody has the same shot," LeFlore coach Otis Hughley said. "Memphis is a school that's in there really, really hard, really, really good. They're going to be tough to beat."

Added Cousins: "I'm seeing who's interested in me, but as of right now me and Memphis have the best relationship. It means a lot I see that [Calipari] is there and interested in me, and I am interested in them."

Cousins says he's also considering Washington, Virginia Tech, NC State, Kansas State and Wake Forest.

Xavier Henry, the 6-6 shooting guard out of Oklahoma City Putnam City who is committed to Memphis, is also working on recruiting Cousins.

"We talk almost every day," Cousins said of Henry. "[He's] hyped that I'm interested in the school. It will be an honor to play with Xavier."

As for Cousins' request to UAB for the out clause, the NCAA doesn't approve of such moves.

"The national letter of intent cannot be altered or modified in any way," NCAA spokesman Chuck Wynne told USA Today in November.

Yet when Greg Oden and Mike Conley planned to sign with Ohio State while it was in the midst of an NCAA investigation, The Indianapolis Star reported that coach Thad Matta wrote them a letter guaranteeing that they would be released from their scholarship if the sanctions kept the team out of the 2007 NCAA tournament.

Last season at Indiana, Rick Greenspan, the school's athletic director, allowed two players, 6-9 wing Devin Ebanks and 6-foot guard Terrell Holloway, to have addendums written into their national letters of intent in case the coach left.

"[Indiana coach Kelvin] Sampson or one of the staff members wrote exactly what we were looking for [into the addendum]," said Lawrence McGugins, Ebanks' AAU coach. "We had an attorney look it over, and he said, 'Yes, this is good language."

He added: "I knew you could get it done. The coach signed off on it. The athletic director signed off on it. If they wanted this commitment they had to do it. …We got them to write it so it holds them accountable."

The move turned out to be good planning on their part.

After Sampson left Indiana in the wake of the recruiting scandal, Ebanks de-committed and ended up at West Virginia, while Holloway is now at Xavier.

Wynne told USA Today the national letter of intent is an "agreement between the institution and the student-athlete, not the coach and the student-athlete," yet McGugins said most players commit to schools because of the coach.

"Most kids go because of the coach," he said. "They don't go so much because of the academia and because they love the campus. First and foremost, it's the relationship with the coach."

In many cases, the school will grant a player a release after a coach is fired or leaves for another reason.

Still, McGugins says players need to protect themselves by asking for the out clause ahead of time. He said it's not a national trend simply because most players don't know enough to ask for it.

"We had done that before [Ebanks] committed," he said. "Universities and coaches will play games if you don't get it done beforehand.

"Anything can happen after a kid signs."

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