- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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When Connecticut announced that forward Ater Majok would be leaving the school in early September, the given reason -- or at least the assumed one -- was as such: Majok had decided his NBA career wasn't going to happen anytime soon, so instead of wasting another few years toiling in the Big East, it was best to head back to Australia and start making money now. Fair enough.
The only problem with this line? Just a month before he left the program, Majok told the Hartford Courant that he was finally getting settled at his new school. He was looking forward to "three more seasons." Why leave in 30 days?
What if he was forced out? On Tuesday, Majok talked to the New Haven Register, and he was clear on one point: His departure wasn't his choice.
“I didn’t want to leave,” Majok said. “I’m not stupid. Why stay around here all summer, miss the NBA circuit, and then leave? At the end of the day, I had no choice.”
But he wouldn’t elaborate, instead referring the question to his agent, Mike Lelchitski, of the Washington, D.C.-based Sports International Group. Lelthitski wasn’t any more helpful. “From what I understand, it wasn’t his decision,” Lelthitski said. “I don’t know what was behind it, but it’s pretty clear that it wasn’t his decision – or it wasn’t all his decision. It was his decision to go pro. He could have transferred to another school.”
So, Majok says it wasn't his decision. Majok's agent says it wasn't his decision. What does Jim Calhoun say?
He said he was surprised when Majok came to talk to him about the possibility of transferring in May, then again in June. Calhoun said he advised him not to. Calhoun also said Majok was torn by the desires of his family and the desires of his coach, Ed Smith. [...] Calhoun adamently said that Majok wasn't forced, that he was eligible and welcomed back, and that Majok had been disappointed with his role on the team. Calhoun added that Majok thought he was not utilized properly in the UConn system.
Either there was a fundamental misunderstanding at work -- a conversation about Majok's role got out of hand, he took offense, things mushroomed into a departure, etc. -- or someone isn't being truthful. Nor does any party have a clear motive. Calhoun wouldn't want to get rid of his most promising big man in the midst of a down cycle. Nor did Majok seem keen to leave without a chance to work out for NBA scouts.
That raises the more sinister question: Was the nature of Majok's recruitment a threat to UConn in its attempts to fend off NCAA sanctions? The answer: No one, save Calhoun, Majok and the intermediaries therein, knows.