Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Michael Dunigan quits Oregon for Israel
By Andy Katz ESPN.com
Oregon forward Michael Dunigan has decided to go pro, signing with a team in Israel.
Dunigan's new agent, Chicago-based Mike Naiditch, told ESPN.com Wednesday that he signed Dunigan to a FIBA professional agent/player contract last Sunday.
Naiditch said Dunigan, a Chicago native, has signed a three-year guaranteed contract with Hapoel Migdal in Jerusalem.
Naiditch said he has known Dunigan since Dunigan was in the "eighth or ninth grade." Naiditch said that he followed Dunigan's career in Chicago since he was a former coach in the Chicago public league.
Agents are allowed to have relationships with players and advise them under NCAA rules but cannot enter into a professional agreement with them or give them any benefits, monetary or gifts, and still have the player maintain his amateur status.
Naiditch said he followed Dunigan's career locally but never saw the 6-10 forward play a game in college during his two years in Eugene.
Naiditch said he never gave money to Dunigan and didn't enter into a professional relationship with him until he signed the contract last Sunday. He said no one from Oregon or the NCAA has contacted him.
Despite this, Oregon was concerned enough about information the school was given that Dunigan might have received extra benefits while playing for the university that it notified the Pac-10 on Aug. 2 of its intention to investigate the claim.
Nearly three weeks later and after conducting five of the team's allotted 10 practices in preparation for a foreign trip, new Ducks coach Dana Altman called off a planned trip to Italy that was supposed to run from Aug. 23-Sept. 1.
On Aug. 18, five days after the practices started, the players were sent home until they were due back this week for fall workouts in advance of Oregon's first academic quarter starting later this month.
Naiditch said when Dunigan returned home to Chicago after the Italy trip was called off, Dunigan called him to ask for his advice "and see if anything was out there for him, see if anything was possible." That's when Naiditch said he went to work on securing a pro contract overseas.
Dunigan didn't return and the school said he hasn't told it or Altman why.
"Michael came home distraught and was looking for an alternative," Naiditch said. "Why he wanted to do it wasn't my business. We gave him an option."
Former Ducks coach Ernie Kent, who recruited Dunigan, said Wednesday he wasn't aware of any agent issue with any of his players during his tenure. He said that the only time agents were around the players was after they were done playing for Oregon. He said he would have confronted any agent if there was an issue.
Oregon spokesman Dave Williford, who was speaking on behalf of Altman and athletic director Rob Mullens, said Wednesday that the player in question [Dunigan] had been interviewed by the school. Williford said the school didn't interview Kent or his former assistant coaches. Williford said the investigation was still ongoing.
If Oregon or the NCAA proved Dunigan was receiving money during the season then it would render him a professional and ineligible and force Oregon to vacate games in which he participated.
Dunigan averaged nine points and 4.9 rebounds last season. During his two seasons with the Ducks, Dunigan was part of a two-win Pac-10 team and a seven-win Pac-10 squad for Kent.
Dunigan's abrupt departure is just the latest roster depletion for Altman, who took over a team that had already been gutted by the transfers of Drew Wiley (Boise State), Boston College-bound Matt Humphrey -- a close friend of Dunigan's and fellow Chicago native, Josh Crittle (Central Florida) and Jamil Wilson, who transferred back home to Milwaukee to attend Marquette.
Altman, who led Creighton to seven NCAA tournaments during his 16 years in Omaha, was not the first choice for the Ducks. Kent was fired after missing the NCAAs for the second straight season despite going to two Elite Eights during his tenure and the Ducks wanted to make a major splash with his replacement.
Oregon flirted with Gonzaga's Mark Few, an Oregon alumnus, and tried to lure a coach with Final Four history to Oregon and its new Matthew Knight Arena, set to open this season. But the Ducks couldn't find high-profile name but did nab Altman, who may not have the national name recognition or the deep NCAA tournament success, but is well-respected in the coaching business.
The Ducks will return six players off last season's team, which also lost senior guard and leading scorer Tajuan Porter. The Ducks, who may be picked to finish last in the Pac-10, will likely lean heavily on returnees junior Malcolm Armstead, junior Jeremy Jacob, senior LeKendric Longmire, sophomore E.J. Singler, brother of Duke senior Kyle Singler, and redshirt senior Joevan Catron. Armstead was the only player of this group that averaged in double figures, finishing with 10 points a game.
Andy Katz is a senior writer who covers college basketball for ESPN.com.