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The best available class of 2014 point guard remains in limbo until May

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

Coaches from ACC, SEC and Big East schools continue to call Brewster Academy coach Jason Smith every week to show interest in recruiting standout point guard Devonte Graham.

It's a dream come true for the 6-foot-1 senior except for the minor detail that he still can't speak with any of them himself.

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Devonte Graham

Unless Appalachian State changes its mind and releases Graham from the letter of intent he originally signed in Nov. 2012, no other Division I programs are allowed to contact him until the end of the 2013-14 school year in May. Graham has been trying to get out of his letter of intent since last February when high-major programs began to show interest in him after a better-than-anticipated senior season at Raleigh (N.C.) Broughton High.

Smith spoke with Yahoo Sports and other media outlets in September about Graham's plight in hopes that public pressure would help persuade Appalachian State officials to grant the player his release. Asked for an update on the situation Thursday night, Smith said there's "nothing new."

"There has been no dialogue from App. State at all since last spring," Smith said. "No response to calls and texts per Devonte and his family."

Ten high-major programs have offered Graham scholarships even though they're unable to speak with him, but Smith is hesitant to publicly reveal them out of fear Appalachian State will accuse them of tampering. Among the schools Smith has previously mentioned to Yahoo Sports and other outlets are Memphis, Florida State, Virginia, Creighton and Butler.

If Appalachian State released Graham, he'd be eligible to play for any school he chooses for the 2014-15 season. If Appalachian State continues to hold its ground, Graham can either play for the Mountaineers or forfeit one season of Division I eligibility, either by sitting out the 2014-15 season or by playing for a junior college.

Asked if there is any chance Graham might still consider playing for Appalachian State to avoid sitting out a year, Smith responded, "only ... if there was a change in coaching staff at the end of the year."

Appalachian State defended its decision not to release Graham via a statement it released in September. The six-paragraph statement noted that Graham "willingly and excitedly" signed a binding letter of intent only to change his mind three months later after coach Jason Capel and his staff had stopped recruiting other Class of 2014 point guards.

"We feel like we are acting in the best interests of all student-athletes and Division I programs that operate under the principle that a National Letter of Intent is a binding agreement meant to be upheld by both the student-athlete and the institution," the statement read. "When that principle is not upheld by a small number of people with selfish motives, it is to the detriment of the student-athlete, the vast majority of Division I institutions (particularly mid-major programs) and all of college basketball."

It's a testament to Graham that so many elite programs remain interested even though he cannot speak with them until May.

On the floor, Graham has emerged as the best remaining available Class of 2014 point guard by adding muscle and showcasing the ability to sink shots from the perimeter or get to the rim. And in the classroom, Graham earned straight "A's" during his first semester at Brewster.

Said Smith, "He's a great kid. I'm impressed with how he's remained focused, despite not being able to speak with anyone."

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