- Jeff Goodman, ESPN Insider
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"Devonte Graham willingly and excitedly chose to sign a national letter of intent with Appalachian State last November after having the opportunity to be recruited by 351 NCAA Division I programs," Appalachian State said in a statement Friday. "Furthermore, if he thought that a more desirable situation might arise in the future, he also had the option to wait until the late signing period in April to make his college choice."
The 6-foot-1 Graham signed a binding letter of intent with Appalachian State out of Broughton High (N.C.) in November but told ESPN.com on Wednesday that he asked Capel for his release seven months ago.
"I went on an official visit, loved it and loved the coaches at the time," Graham said. "But then I realized I could play at a higher level."
Graham had a change of heart and asked to be released in mid-February. Capel, a former North Carolina player who is entering his fourth season as Appalachian State coach, hasn't budged, and sources told ESPN.com that the staff believes tampering occurred by N.C. State.
"As our coaching staff fully expected, Devonte had a terrific senior season last winter and, accordingly, drew the interest of programs from what are widely recognized as power conferences," the Appalachian State statement said. "However, due to his binding agreement with Appalachian State, other programs were not permitted by NCAA rules to contact him, be it directly or through people claiming to represent his interests.
"Due to our concerns that these rules were not followed and the fact that we had turned away all other potential student-athletes that could have capably filled his spot on the roster, we denied his request for a release from his binding letter of intent. We also made the NCAA aware of our concerns."
N.C. State senior associate athletic director Christopher Boyer told ESPN.com that the school has not heard from the NCAA regarding this matter and wasn't aware of an "NLI inquiry." However, sources said the NCAA and NLI are aware of the situation and are looking into it.
"We absolutely didn't tamper," N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried told ESPN.com's Andy Katz. "We had zero contact with the kid. He played with my son. I went out of my way not to [contact]."
Graham said he hadn't had any conversations with Gottfried, whose son also played for Broughton High last season, or anyone on NC State's staff about joining the program after he signed with Appalachian State.
Graham's AAU coach Dwayne West, the brother of NBA forward David West, told ESPN.com that he didn't have any communication with NC State regarding Graham.
Graham, who is spending a post-graduate year at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., said he plans to see a counselor next week due to the emotional stress he's experiencing. If he's not released by Capel, he will not be eligible to play in college next season and will have three years of college eligibility remaining.
Graham is not allowed to communicate with any college coaches until one year after the letter of intent expires.
Brewster Academy coach Jason Smith told ESPN.com that UConn, Creighton, Pittsburgh, Providence and Wichita State are among the schools that have expressed interest in Graham after watching him play this month in workouts.
"It's very frustrating," Graham said. "I can't even talk to them."
"I understand the NLI is binding. I understand what Devonte did and how he's turning his back on Appalachian State," West told ESPN.com. "But does the punishment fit the crime? He's losing two years."