It didn't take long for Devonte Graham's phone to start buzzing once new Appalachian State coach Jim Fox did what his predecessor would not and released the Brewster Academy standout from the letter of intent he signed in 2012.
Fifteen schools have already called Graham to show interest in recruiting him since he received his complete release late Wednesday night. Among those to reach out to the Class of 2014's best available point guard are Boston College, Cincinnati, Creighton, Florida, Florida St, George Mason, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Providence, South Florida, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Xavier.
Coaches from most of those schools plan to fly to New Hampshire to visit Graham at Brewster Academy either Thursday, Friday or Sunday. Brewster coach Jason Smith said he expects Graham to narrow his list early next week once he has a chance to visit with all those coaches.
Fox's decision to release Graham ended a frustrating 14-month standoff between the recruit and the school with which he initially signed.
Graham initially signed with Appalachian State in Nov. 2012 but asked for his release three months later after a better-than-anticipated senior season at Raleigh (N.C.) Broughton High sparked interest from numerous high-major programs. Former Appalachian State coach Jason Capel refused since signing Graham was a desperately needed recruiting coup and the staff had stopped recruiting other point guards three months earlier.
Since numerous high-major programs wanted to speak directly to Graham but couldn't unless he got his release, Smith spoke with Yahoo Sports and other media outlets in September in hopes that public pressure would help persuade the Mountaineers to set him free. He noted Graham had no intention of playing for Appalachian State and would have to forfeit a season of Division I eligibility if the school did not release him, either by sitting out the 2014-15 season or by playing for a junior college.
Appalachian State nonetheless entrenched its position, releasing a six-paragraph statement in response to media reports sympathetic to Graham. It noted Graham had "willingly and excitedly" signed a binding letter of intent only to change his mind.
"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."
Appalachian State's stance abruptly changed once it fired Capel and replaced him with Fox. Presumably not wanting to send the wrong message to future recruits, Fox released Graham within days of coming aboard at Appalachian State.
Even while he was in recruiting limbo, Graham had a strong season for Brewster, helping the school win the National Prep Championship. Graham showcased high-major talent, showing an ability to finish at the rim, find teammates off the dribble and keep defenses honest with his jump shot. He also is a ball-hawking defender capable of jumping the passing lanes or forcing turnovers with his ball pressure.
Numerous schools were already going to be interested in Graham even if he were to have to sit out a year. Now that he doesn't, expect a feeding frenzy the next few days.
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