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Jeff Eisenberg

DePaul finally frees Walter Pitchford from his letter of intent

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Villainized in the local and national media for keeping Walter Pitchford Jr. at DePaul against his will, Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell has finally decided to grant the incoming freshman's request to leave.

Walter Pitchford Sr. told ZagsBlog.com on Sunday night that Purnell called earlier in the day and promised that Walter Jr. will be released from his letter of intent in the next few days.

"It's been frustrating but we're thankful and we're just going to move on," Pitchford Sr. told ZagsBlog.com. "We thank DePaul for everything they've done. DePaul is a fine institution and we wish them great success."

Pitchford initially cited Chicago's high crime rate and DePaul's recent coaching change as the reasons he was seeking his release, but the school released a statement last month denying the 6-foot-10 big man's request. In an interview with ESPN Chicago on Saturday, Purnell shed more light on the school's reluctance to let Pitchford leave, alluding to potential tampering that may have occurred.

"Walter Pitchford signed with DePaul, and when I got to DePaul in conversations with he and his dad, he re-committed to DePaul," Purnell said. "And then mysteriously, within a couple days of tremendous meetings on campus and within days of schools starting to call us about releases and so on and so forth, among a lot of other concerns that we had during that process, they wanted a release. We had some concerns about that. We simply want that process to play out, so we can have our concerns mediated."

It's easy to understand why DePaul would be frustrated if other schools were attempting to persuade their signed recruits to jump ship, but the Blue Demons still came off looking petty by restricting Pitchford from going elsewhere. Sure, NCAA rules say they had every right to hold Pitchford to the letter of intent he signed, yet the unfavorable P.R. definitely wasn't worth it for a two-star recruit.

Now Purnell can move on with DePaul's rebuilding process and Pitchford can attempt to find a new school.

Pitchford Sr. isn't sure where his son can go this late in the recruiting process, but it's safe to say it will be a happier marriage.

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