Devonte Graham finally received what he had been wanting for over a year when new Appalachian State head coach Jim Fox released him from his letter of intent he had signed with the school the fall of his senior year in 2012, when he played at Broughton High School in Raleigh. Graham had an ongoing battle with former coach Jeff Capel, who refused to release Graham after an impressive senior season at Broughton followed by a more impressive post-graduate season at Brewster Academy (NH).
Graham had signed with the Mountaineers in November of his senior season of high school. The talented point guard visited the school and loved what it and the coaches had to offer, which is why he originally had signed with the school. He had a stellar senior season, which included leading his team to a second place finish in the 2013 NCHSAA 4A State Championship and being named to the 2013 NCBCA Boys All State First Team. However, after an incredible season, Graham realized his potential was much greater and that he could play at a higher level.
“I went on an official visit, loved it and loved the coaches at the time. But then I realized I could play at a higher level,” Graham said.
Graham asked Capel for a release in February of 2013, a request that Capel denied. Appalachian State staff believed that NC State had been talking to Graham and that tampering had occurred. The school’s athletic program released a statement regarding the matter in late September of 2013.
“As our coaching staff fully expected, Devonte had a terrific senior season last winter and, accordingly, drew the interest of programs from what are widely recognized as ‘power conferences.’ However, due to his binding agreement with Appalachian State, other programs were not permitted by NCAA rules to contact him, be it directly or through people claiming to represent his interests,” the statement said.
“Due to our concerns that these rules were not followed and the fact that we had turned away all other potential student-athletes that could have capably filled his spot on the roster, we denied his request for a release from his binding Letter of Intent. We also made the NCAA aware of our concerns.”
The end of the statement from Appalachian State reads, “All of that being said, the situation is now in the hands of the NCAA and will be resolved by its governance. Therefore, we will not have any further comment on the matter.”
And the last sentence is exactly what happened. Not only did the program not comment any further on the matter, according to Graham, neither did Capel and his coaching staff.
“I asked [to be released] multiple times and then communication [with Capel] stopped after a while,” Graham said.
Due to Capel not granting Graham his release in time for him to choose another college to attend, Graham decided to take a prep year and chose to attend Brewster Academy (NH), where he went on to significantly help his team win the 2014 National Prep Championship.
After a season at Brewster, Graham’s prayers were answered. Capel was let go by Appalachian State in early March after spending four seasons as the coach. The school chose to not renew Capel’s contract. Appalachian State announced on April 8 that they reached an agreement with Davidson assistant coach Jim Fox. That is when Graham’s prayers were answered and his path to college basketball would take a turn for the better.
On April 9, Fox told ESPN that he was going to release Graham from his letter of intent.
“My mom called me and told me. We were so happy. I got a billion texts and calls from family saying how happy they were. The same day my phone started blowing up [with] tweets, texts and calls,” Graham said when asked about the day he was released from his LOI.
As soon as that information was released, Graham immediately became one of the most sought-after players in the Class of 2014. He is unranked, however, due to him being previously signed with the Mountaineers.
Brewster Academy head coach Jason Smith told ESPN.com that Virginia, Providence, NC State and Nebraska were set to visit the school and meet with Graham April 10. Kansas, Florida, Cincinnati, and Virginia Tech were set to visit on April 11.
Graham eliminated Rutgers, Missouri, Clemson and Georgia Tech from his list of schools. That is impressive considering that he went from being a point guard who was going to play in the Sun Belt conference to a point guard who has a chance to play in one of the power conferences for a top tier program.
According to Smith’s Twitter (@brewsterhoops), on April 15, Graham narrowed his list of schools to Kansas, NC State, Virginia, Providence, and Virginia Tech.
“I don’t know [when people can expect a decision]. It depends on how many visits I take,” Graham said when asked if knew when he would make his college decision.
Graham took a visit to Kansas on Friday, returning Sunday, and is expected to visit NC State on Monday and Tuesday. He took to Twitter once he returned home from his trip to Lawrence.
Kansas coach Bill Self is familiar with Brewster and even point guards from the prep school. Brewster produced former Jayhawk and current NBA player Thomas Robinson and current point guard Naadir Tharpe.
The past two weeks have definitely been a lot for the 6-foot-2, 175-pound point guard, but it’s definitely something he does not mind after having been “trapped” by a coach. Now with high major teams calling his name, he is definitely feeling relief after the path he has taken. It’s been a long, hard road for Graham and things won’t slow down until his college decision has been made.
Here is a highlight tape of Graham from this past season at Brewster Academy: