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Luke Winn of SI deduces high school, college basketball 'commitments'

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Arizona's recent history of men's basketball could be microscopically analyzed for the sake of understanding why, of all sports, basketball players just can't seem to keep their commitments. Well Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated did the research, and the findings were both wide-ranging but also telling.

Simply put, basketball is a sport of early hype and much transition. The results are coaching moves or commitments at young ages. Thus, decommitments. Look no further than Lamont 'Momo' Jones transferring from Arizona to Iona as a prime example of Winn's findings. The basics?

  • Data on five classes of top-100 recruits was used to evaluate decommitments
  • Players who transferred high schools were nearly twice as likely to decommit later 
  • There isn't one overarching reason players decide to renege on commitments

Jones falls into the second finding quite easily. He played at three different high schools, committed to two universities before finally choosing Arizona, then, obviously, left the Wildcats following his sophomore campaign to be closer to his family, as he told me in an interview for Dime Magazine.

All, as Winn noted, were for completely different reasons:

• He said his first high school jump, from New York City's Rice to American Christian (Aston, Pa.), helped him get exposure by playing alongside Tyreke Evans (reason: profile boost).

• Jones left for Oak Hill Academy because American Christian closed after his junior year (reason: necessity).

• He decommitted from Louisville because he pledged there as a 10th-grader, on the sole basis that he was awestruck by the idea of playing for Rick Pitino, and had a friend, Edgar Sosa, on the team (reason: immaturity).

• Jones decommitted from Virginia Tech because he became uncomfortable with the idea of playing there (reason: cold feet).

• He was released from USC because Tim Floyd resigned within two months of Jones' decision to play there (reason: outside factors).

• He transferred to Iona to be closer to his grandmother, who was undergoing chemotherapy, and his mother and sister, who've barely seen him play in college ("It was all about my family," he said). Now he's seeking an NCAA waiver to play immediately for the Gaels (reason: family).


Winn calls Jones the king of decommitments, and his case is necessary to understand all the deciding factors that go into college athletics. Most recently, Jones' likely replacement, incoming freshman Josiah Turner, also switched from Sacramento High School to the Quality Education Academy, across the country in North Carolina. 

And that came after a commitment and decommitment to play for Herb Sendek and ASU.

The pure stats show something is clearly up. Nearly 40 percent of Top-100 recruits attend more than one high school, and those Top-100 commits who play at more than one high school are twice as likely to decommit as their fellow classmates. Almost half of players who commit early, 3-4 years from attending a college, choose otherwise. And a quarter of Top-100 commits transfer in college.

So what gives? Call it kids not understanding how to keep their word or otherwise. Says Winn:

There is no threshold for what, exactly, constitutes an epidemic, but at the very least, we have a fickleness problem in college basketball.