Colorado recruit puts books before hoops

September, 12, 2011
9/12/11
9:19
PM ET
Colorado freshman Damiene Cain, one of the top players in the Buffaloes' first recruiting class in the Pac-12 era, has decided to forgo a college basketball career in order to concentrate on academics at the school.

"After careful consideration, I have decided not to play basketball on the collegiate level," Cain said in a statement released by the school on Sunday. "On a personal note, I feel it's best for me to pursue a college degree without the restrictions and demands that come with being a student-athlete. I wish to thank all the people at University of Colorado and my family for their support in this decision."

Cain, a 6-foot-7 forward from North Hollywood, Calif., who reflected the school's new emphasis on recruiting in Southern California, was ESPNU's No. 37-ranked recruit in the state and signed a national letter of intent last November.

He chose Colorado over the 16 other schools that offered him scholarships after taking official visits to Boston College and San Diego State. It was a fit in part because his parents played basketball at Colorado Christian, and he had spent part of his early childhood living in the state.

But according to Cain's high school coach, the question of whether a college basketball career was the correct path for the promising player was something he wrestled with for years.

"Even in high school, he was considering whether or not that was the right usage of so much time," Harvard-Westlake School coach Greg Hilliard told ESPN.com on Monday. "We've had discussions with him for a couple years on whether it was worth it, the inordinate amount of time spent on basketball. Even if you take it to its limit and take it to the NBA, you’re done by 30."

A prestigious private school, Harvard-Westlake has produced plenty of college talent over the years. Its most recent Division I players include USC's Alex Stepheson, Tennessee's Renaldo Woolridge and Miami's Erik Swoope.

Cain was expected to be next after committing to Colorado, pausing for dramatic effect before choosing a Buffaloes cap over five others with his parents by his side at the announcement. CU coach Tad Boyle liked the 230-pounder's versatility as an "inside-out-type guy" and signed him early along with Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker, two other top Southern California recruits. In his senior season, Cain averaged a double-double and helped Harvard-Westlake win a section championship.

Still, Hilliard said Cain questioned whether spending so much time on basketball was the balance he wanted in life. After enrolling at Boulder, Cain and Boyle spoke more about the player's desire to focus on academics and ultimately chose a path rarely taken by the average college basketball prospect.

"Damiene and I have had numerous conversations over the past two weeks in regards to where basketball fits in his life," Boyle said in a statement. "The health, happiness and well-being of our players is always a paramount concern. Damiene Cain is a terrific young man and we support him in his decision."

Boyle will have to look elsewhere for production after losing his top four scorers -- lottery pick Alec Burks among them -- off a team that won a school-record 24 games and reached the semifinal round of the NIT.

Hilliard, who said Cain would need to take out a student loan in order to attend Colorado, described his former player as focused and mature and one who set high standards and was a role model for teammates.

"Knowing that so many of our kids coming out of our school have devoted their six years (grades 7-12) here to a heavy academic schedule, the idea of deserting that and going to six hours a day playing hoops enters into the decision," Hilliard said. "I support the decision and understand it.

"It certainly wasn't spur of the moment. Making the decision at the time before it hurt the team any more than it already might, he had that weighing heavily on him."

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