Tech loaded with early entries
By Jerry Ratcliffe / email@example.com | 978-7251
January 20, 2007
Emptying a sports editor’s notebook on a Saturday morning …
Our column on Virginia’s reluctance to allow early admissions for high school or prep school football players that appeared in Friday morning’s paper met with a wave of approval by our readers.
Obviously we didn’t have the space to include all of the facts, but here are a few that were left out that should be noted:
* When UVa’s in-state rival, Virginia Tech, puts its 2007 football team on the field in September, it will include a total of 19 Hokies that were admitted early.
* There’s some debate about how many players Virginia has lost in the past because of the early admissions policy, but there are several. One of the most visible was Derrick Williams, a Greenbelt, Md., native, who has started at wide receiver for Penn State the past two seasons and has caught more than 60 passes for more than 700 yards. Do you think UVa could have used him the past two seasons? UVa sources said that the Cavs did not lose either Jacoby Ford (Clemson) or Ben Tate (Auburn) due to the policy, but that Florida’s Joe Haden may have been a victim of the policy.
* We need to note that Stanford does not allow early admissions. We had that wrong. However, Cal-Berkeley does allow it.
Many Division I-A schools are using the early admissions to “grayshirt” players. A growing trend in college football, grayshirting means a high school or prep school graduate or junior college transfer delays his enrollment until January (rather than August), when the school has a scholarship open.
For instance, Alabama signed 33 players in 2005, which is more than the NCAA’s 25-man limit. However, because of the early admission policies at the school, 25 were enrolled as members of the ’05 class, while eight delayed entry until the following January and counted toward the ’06 class.
Say that UVa is in hot pursuit of 28 players, but only has room for 25. Under grayshirting, the Cavs can take 25, then have three come in the following January and count toward the next class’s numbers. That’s opposed to telling three kids that “sorry, but we can’t recruit you anymore.”
Sewell and Ogletree
Virginia’s starting quarterback Jameel Sewell and wide receiver Kevin Ogletree both underwent similar surgeries on their wrists in December, but they appear to be recovering well.
Sewell, who had surgery performed on his right wrist (his throwing hand), repaired a bone that had been fractured. Doctors told him that he needed to be proactive in the repair because, had it gone untended, the natural deterioration caused by the injury could have been career-threatening.
Ogletree’s injury was similar but not as extensive.
“I was surprised to learn from our medical staff that both will be able to do at least something in spring ball,” said UVa head coach Al Groh, who wasn’t sure just how much Sewell would be permitted to do.
Groh will be on the New England Patriots’ sideline on Sunday in Indianapolis getting a close-up view of the AFC Championship game. His sideline pass is courtesy of his close pal, Patriots coach Bill Belichick. … Groh said Friday that Virginia’s spring football practice will begin on March 21, abut nine days earlier than usual, and will end on April 14.
Tucker finding his way with Cavs
By Whitelaw Reid / firstname.lastname@example.org | 978-7247
January 20, 2007
Shortly after Virginia’s loss at Purdue on Nov. 29, a glum Jamil Tucker stood outside of UVa’s locker room.
Tucker, a product of West Side High School in Gary, Ind., had played just four minutes in his return to the state. He didn’t score and had one turnover.
With several family members and friends in attendance, along with his former high school coach, it certainly wasn’t the kind of performance the freshman had envisioned.
As Tucker received hugs and well wishes, it was hard to tell exactly how he was feeling.
Was he mad? Sad? Frustrated with his play? Homesick?
Probably all of the above.
That’s what has made Tucker’s play in the last two games so gratifying.
It was about midway through the first half of Virginia’s win over Maryland on Tuesday night that UVa fans got a glimpse of their future.
It went splash, splash.
When Tucker drained back-to-back 3-pointers, one could almost hear the fan base’s collective sigh - as if to say, “OK, maybe we have a pretty good player here.”
Tucker was one of five Virginia players to score in double figures. The California native tied his career-high with 12 points.
But it wasn’t just his numbers that were impressive.
Tucker, who was 3 of 4 from 3-point range, played with an aggression and confidence that Virginia coach Dave Leitao has been trying to unveil for much of the season.
“He’s growing,” said Leitao, whose team plays host to Wake Forest on Sunday. “He’s growing more confident. I thought he could play even more confident than he did. He passed up a couple [shots]. He can really make shots and can make even more when he’s feeling really good about himself.”
Tucker’s confidence was palpable after his second 3 tickled the twine.
“He had it going on,” said Virginia junior Sean Singletary. “It all starts in practice, and he’s been having great practices. He’s been energetic, playing well on defense and shooting the ball well.”
Tucker said assimilating to the college game has been a challenge.
“Just coming in, not knowing … it’s a totally different level,” Tucker said. “You’re basically just trying to find your way and seek guidance. Once I got the right guidance and the right foot forward, it was easier to step in.”
At 6-foot-8, Tucker has the potential to be a matchup nightmare. In high school, he logged minutes at every position on the floor.
This season, Tucker has only averaged 11 minutes per game. What has prevented him from seeing more playing time has been his defense and rebounding, according to Leitao.
“Like a lot of these guys, it’s never been talked about or emphasized,” Leitao said. “It’s never been required, so it’s a learning process.
For him to have to play post defense - when he’s been on the perimeter for most of his life - it’s a first-time venture.
“He’s a work in progress, but he’s willing to keep coming back after mistakes and I’m willing to keep going to him if he keeps learning.”
In the loss at Boston College last Saturday, Tucker hauled in a career-high nine rebounds - more than he had collected in his previous four games combined.
“He can rebound, and when he gets stronger we’ll have him be a better post defender,” Leitao said. “Eventually he’ll play more minutes as a result.”
On a team lacking big men - in both quantity and quality - Tucker realizes his value.
“At my size, I need to be able to go down there and help my teammates,” he said. “Every game you play, you get more confidence and you get more experience. While you’re out there, you see certain things and the same experiences, which help you and enable you to play harder.
“If I could put it all together, I think it would be a great thing, but as every game progresses I learn more and more.”
Good thing they’re not going to the same school
Chapman not signing with UVa
By Doug Doughty
With the commitment of Henrico High School’s Corey Mosley to Virginia, the state’s top uncommitted prospect is Chimaeze “Chima” Okoli, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive tackle from Salem High School in Virginia Beach.
Okoli is not to be confused with Chimso Okoji, a linebacker from Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, Md.
When I first learned of UVa’s interest in Okoji, my first impression was to think the Cavaliers had become involved with Okoli.
Okoli, rated the No. 20 prospect in Virginia by The Roanoke Times, is the only uncommitted players among nine prospects making official visits to Virginia Tech this weekend.
Okoli told Rivals.com that he favors Penn State but by a small margin over Tech. He is scheduled to go to Penn State this weekend and also has received an offer from Clemson in recent days.
According to Rivals, Penn State has offered Okoli, as has Michigan State.
MICHIGAN STATE and its new head coach, ex-Cincinnati boss Mark Dantonio, have followed Central Florida and Temple as the three schools to offer Okoji (6-2, 220). Iowa and Virginia are among those that have inquired, although the Cavaliers have not offered.
It would be understandable that the Cavaliers would be looking at linebackers because they have lost two linebackers who originally had made commitments to UVa, Almondo Sewell from Hargrave Military Academy and Romale Tucker from Ballou High School in Washington, D.C.
Tucker has enrolled at Milford (Conn.) Prep and Rivals is reporting that he has committed to Syracuse. Hargrave coach Robert Prunty said Friday morning that Virginia has withdrawn its scholarship offer to Sewell, a Trenton, N.J., product who signed with the Cavaliers in 2006 but did not meet NCAA entrance guidelines.
“Almondo’s not going to get in,” Prunty said. “The admissions office is not going to admit him.It was based on his test score. That’s the information I’m getting. He’s going to qualify out of Hargrave, but I guess he didn’t meet the admissions office’s concerns about his test score being low. He hasn’t qualified yet.”
Prunty said Sewell is visiting Temple this weekend. The Owls’ head coach, Al Golden, and defensive coordinator, Mark D’Onofrio, recruited New Jersey for Virginia when Sewell originally committed. Alabama, Maryland and North Carolina also have expressed interest.
Prunty said that two other players who signed with Virginia last year, offensive lineman Billy Cuffee and safety Ras-I Dowling, are “solid for UVa” and will be in Charlottesville this weekend on official visits.
AS LATE AS LAST WEEKEND, Virginia had 26 committed players, according to some reports, but no more than 23 of those players will sign.
In addition to the losses of Sewell and Tucker, the Cavaliers will not sign Fork Union Military Academy nose tackle Asa Chapman.. That was the word Friday from Fork Union Military Academy coach John Shuman.
Chapman, a 2006 UVa signee out of Orange County High School, does not necessarily qualify as a “decommit.”
“The Virginia staff is going to come over in a week or so and sit down with Asa and try to work up a plan as to what he should do,” Shuman said.
Chapman is scheduled to take the SAT next weekend. If Chapman has a big jump, Shuman said, he might try to keep Chapman around for another year in hopes that he can enter Virginia in 2008.
TECH IS INVOLVED with each of the state’s remaining uncommitted Top 25 players, Okoli and No. 23 Maurice Hampton, a two-way lineman from Phoebus High School in Hampton who is projected as an O-lineman by the Hokies.
Hampton will visit Maryland this weekend, take the SAT next weekend and then visit Tech over the weekend of Feb. 2-4. The signing date this year is Feb. 7.
The most heralded uncommitted player still on Tech’s list is Tydreke Powell, a 6-3, 298-pound defensive lineman from Hertford County High School in Ahoskie, N.C.
Powell has been to East Carolina and Clemson, according to Rivals, and has a trip upcoming to North Carolina this weekend. He is scheduled to visit Tech and Penn State on the last two weekends before the signing day.
FORK UNION’S SHUMAN said that Virginia has been eliminated by FUMA offensive lineman Anthony Castonzo, who will be at Boston College this weekend and will go to Stanford unofficially next week.
Castonzo (6-7, 255) needs to go to Stanford unofficially because he already has taken or will take official visits to Kent State, Connecticut, Temple and Vanderbilt. Five is the limit.
Virginia made an offer to Castonzo, but Castonzo’s father said the Cavaliers didn’t express as much interest as some of the other schools when his son returned home for Christmas break.
Shuman said he suggested that Castonzo commit to Virginia as soon as he took an unofficial visit to Charlottesville in December, but the Cavaliers weren’t in position where they could wait on him, particularly with Lamar Milstead ready to commit after decommitting to UNC.
Of the three Fork Union players involved with Virginia, only long snapper Danny Aiken, a former quarterback at Roanoke’s Cave Spring High School, will be signing Feb. 7. Shuman said he doesn’t know if Aiken will return to Fork Union for the spring term, but recommends it.
“Copper stayed around and got stronger,” said Shuman, referring to UVa starting linebacker Jon Copper, a walk-on from Roanoke’s Northside High School.
NEW HALIFAX COUNTY coach Stan Hodgin reports that 6-foot-2 ½, 255-pound Allen Stephens, a junior linebacker, has received scholarship offers from Tech and Maryland.
Stephens had 189 tackles this past season, including 136 unassisted tackles, 27 for loss. He has 4.7-second speed for 40 yards
Hodgin also gives high marks to another junior, 6-1, 185-pound quarterback Rodale Pippen, who passed for 1,996 yards and 20 touchdowns this past season. Pippen, who started at wide receiver as a sophomore, has 4.55-second speed for 40 yards.
“I think we’re a little unique in what we do,” Hodgin said, “so, we’re always going to have an ‘athlete’ at the quarterback position.”
Those numbers would have been reported earlier if they had been obtainable from Comets beat man Tucker McLaughlin, sports editor of the News and Record of South Boston.
Hodgin isn’t nearly as clueless as McLaughlin.
“I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Hodgin said.
Players' parents turn anger at Duke
Lacrosse team supporters say university misled them, abandoned team members
By Jeff Barker
January 20, 2007
For months, Duke lacrosse families have directed their anger largely at the prosecutor who brought what they consider a baseless sexual assault case against three players.
But District Attorney Michael B. Nifong, who recused himself from the case last week, isn't the only object of their rage. Parents of team members say the university abandoned the 46 players, buckling under pressure by faculty and demonstrators to take action against the team when an African-American stripper's rape allegation surfaced last March.
In a series of interviews, parents and lacrosse team supporters say Duke officials misled them about the university's position, privately assuring them that they believed players' claims of innocence but undercutting the team publicly by making critical comments and forfeiting games. The school's handling of the case has also alienated some alumni.
"Let's face it, a college community is a diverse environment, and there was sensitivity to the notion of white, privileged athletes beating up on a black woman. But in the consideration of an absolutely false notion, three Duke students and their families got lost," said Duke parent Sally Fogarty of Chevy Chase.
She is the mother of Gibbs Fogarty, a sophomore Duke lacrosse player who is not among the players charged.
Prosecutors dropped rape charges against the three accused players last month, although other charges remain.
Duke says it honored the players' presumption of innocence but had to let the legal system run its course. It would not have helped the players if Duke had tried to improperly influence the outcome of such a high-profile court case by becoming a legal advocate, said John Burness, a Duke senior vice president.
"We already had heard rumors in the community that Duke would use its influence, so we were being absolutely scrupulous," Burness said. "We only spoke to those things we could speak to with authority."
One parent told The Sun that Duke athletic director Joe Alleva and Executive Vice President Tallman Trask III had told the captains March 24 essentially that, "We believe you," and that nothing would happen to the team until the legal investigation was completed. The next day, there was an announcement that two games were being forfeited.
"We have confirmed that two guys said, 'We believe you,' " Burness said in reply. "I don't have it confirmed that they said 'Nothing will happen.'"
But Burness added: "It is not up to Trask and Alleva. That is them reaching their judgment having talked to the captains."
A March 25 statement from President Richard H. Brodhead particularly bothered some parents. "Physical coercion and sexual assault are unacceptable in any setting and have no place at Duke," it began. It went on to note that "people are presumed innocent until proven guilty."
The stripper, a student at North Carolina Central University, alleged that she was pulled into a bathroom and raped during a March 13 party at a house rented by three team captains.
On March 28, the university indefinitely suspended the season until there was a clearer legal resolution. That day, Duke released a statement in which the lacrosse captains agreed that they not play until the DNA results affirmed their innocence. At least one parent maintains that the captains were pressured into signing.
"President Brodhead made it clear he was prepared to take some pretty strong actions," Burness said in reply. "I don't believe he put pressure on them. The pressure came from the knowledge he was prepared to take that pretty strong action."
No trial date has been scheduled for the three indicted players - David Evans of Bethesda, Collin Finnerty of Garden City, N.Y., and Reade Seligmann of Essex Fells, N.J. - on the remaining charges.
Nifong stepped aside last week to defend himself against a North Carolina State Bar ethics complaint for statements he made early in the case, including calling Duke lacrosse players "hooligans." The North Carolina attorney general appointed two special prosecutors to take over.
Nifong's departure came as the case seemed to be unraveling, with the accuser waffling over what happened at the party. As new facts have emerged, Duke has become increasingly critical of Nifong and has invited Finnerty and Seligmann to return to school. Neither has accepted. Evans graduated in May.
To parents like Sally Fogarty, the school simply hasn't done enough, and she blames the university for its "lack of support."
Fogarty attended Duke and has raised funds for the university. Two of her children are Duke graduates, and her white brick home is replete with Blue Devil items, including photographs of athletic events and a pair of hooded "Duke" jackets hanging in the front closet.
But she says the atmosphere at Duke got so out of hand last spring - with pot-banging demonstrators calling for "justice" - that she asked her son to come home early because she feared for the safety of lacrosse players.
"On a Friday night, I heard the Black Panthers were marching, and I called him and said, 'Get your stuff; you're coming home,'" Fogarty said. "It was tense."
About 30 members of the "New Black Panther Party" rallied without incident outside a university entrance, according to Duke's Web site.
Rob Bordley, the lacrosse coach at Landon School in Bethesda, which had five graduates on last season's Duke team, said: "There were a lot of people within the Duke community painting [the players] as irresponsible kids, evil kids, Huns such as the barbarians that invaded Europe. It was a ridiculous picture."
"Somebody down there should have stood up for those boys," Bordley said.
One player, Kyle Dowd, who graduated in May, sued Duke on Jan. 4, alleging that he was wrongly given a failing grade in a politics course last spring because he was a member of the men's lacrosse team.
"I think people rushed to judgment," said Dowd's mother, Patricia, of Northport, N.Y. "I think that's the biggest problem in this whole case."
Frustrated with Duke
The parents' frustration with Duke has led to angry e-mails and phone calls to university administrators and searing Internet blogs.
Scott Diggs, 29, a former Duke lacrosse captain who played locally at Loyola, says he loves Duke but has vowed "never to support the university again, at least during Brodhead's tenure" because of the school's treatment of the athletes.
Diggs, who graduated in 1999, wrote a letter to the university recently stating that he was "appalled" at its handling of the lacrosse case.
"It's a really conflicted feeling," Diggs said in an interview from San Diego, where he is a commercial real estate broker. "I have quite a bit of love and appreciation for Duke, but to see the university really not support its students and athletes makes it kind of hard to continue to feel that way."
Duke law professor James Coleman Jr., who led a university review of the lacrosse program, said that he is sympathetic but that parents and alumni might not realize what Duke was up against.
"It is much more complicated than the families appreciate," Coleman said.
He said the bitterness is "understandable."
"I can't imagine I would not feel the same," he said. "But I feel it's somewhat misdirected."
Coleman suggested that the parents' anger might be better directed at Nifong.
"The question is, what was the obligation of the university when a district attorney is saying a gang rape occurred?" Coleman said. "He basically invited the public to condemn the whole team. I just think the university was in a difficult sort of place and had to be very careful and very measured."
While Brodhead has been singled out for criticism, some parents also fault 88 Duke faculty members who endorsed a petition in April challenging the university to explore racism and sexual assault.
Fogarty said the group used the lacrosse case "as a platform for their own agenda." Other parents have derided the 88 as "politically correct liberals."
But Coleman said: "I don't think the faculty members who basically expressed concern in that petition had to be liberal at all. If you believe what the prosecutor said happened, then conservatives or libertarians would have been concerned, too."