Saturday, March 20, 2010
Sampson's footprints all over tourney
By Dana O'Neil
BUFFALO – He is the gift that keeps on giving, to everyone but the schools that once employed him, that is.
Kelvin Sampson’s handprint is all over this NCAA Tournament, the players left in the wake of his implosion at Oklahoma and Indiana racking up minutes for teams while the Sooners and Hoosiers watch from afar.
Don’t think that’s not killing Jeff Capel and Tom Crean, either.
Six guys who either played for or were recruited by Sampson all made the field in different uniforms and five of them were still playing when the second round tipped off.
“I hadn’t thought about that, but I guess there are a lot of us,’’ said West Virginia’s Devin Ebanks, a top five recruit who decommitted after Sampson was booted at IU.
Damion James, ousted in the first round when Texas lost to Wake Forest, was supposed to play at Oklahoma but he was released from his scholarship after Sampson left OU for Indiana, leaving a trail of NCAA stink behind and no players for Jeff Capel.
Scottie Reynolds could have been James’ teammate. Instead Capel let him out of his commitment, too. On Saturday he and Villanova lost to St. Mary’s in the second round.
Armon Bassett, angry at the university’s decision to force Sampson out, was reportedly part of a pack of players that threatened not to play after Sampson left. He was dismissed by interim head coach Dan Dakich, reinstated by Crean and then booted again. On Thursday night, Bassett led Ohio University to one of the more stunning first-round upsets, scoring 32 in a win against Georgetown.
With players leaving left and right, Jordan Crawford told Crean in June 2008 that he, too, would be leaving Bloomington. He transferred to Xavier. The Musketeers will play Pitt in the second-round on Sunday.
And finally there is Ebanks.
He asked for and received an out-clause in his letter of intent, one that would allow him to be released from his scholarship if Sampson was no longer the Indiana coach. He exercised the out-clause not long after Sampson left.
“I think about it all a lot,’’ Ebanks said. “I wish it could have worked out at Indiana, but I’m glad it worked out for me. I was looking for a school that could make a Final Four run and I think I found that. I guess it kind of worked out for all of us.’’