When shooting guard Isaac Hamilton announced that he would attend UTEP back in November, the Miner faithful were hopeful that he would be the centerpiece of a program that has made just three NCAA tournament appearances since reaching the Sweet 16 in 1992 (their most recent trip came in 2010).
With Hamilton joining a rotation that currently features forwards John Bohannon (10.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Julian Washburn (12.2, 4.2), the hope was that Tim Floyd’s program would take a step towards asserting itself as one of Conference USA’s preeminent programs in the aftermath of Memphis’ departure to the American Athletic Conference.
Those plans have hit a major snag, as it was reported that Hamilton has asked to be released from his National Letter of Intent (NLI). According to Floyd, in making the request Hamilton cited the health of his grandmother as the reason why he’d like to be released.
But that hasn’t swayed the head coach, who has denied the request.
“He had two choices – one, not to sign the letter of intent or two, to file an appeal. I’m not releasing him,” Floyd said according to Bill Knight of the El Paso Times. “We have made our schedule based on having Isaac. People have bought season tickets based on our having Isaac. It’s too late.
“He can appeal and we’ll wait to see what happens. If he is allowed out, we might as well not even have letters of intent.”
Signing the NLI locks the student-athlete into that particular school for a full academic year, but if signed the NLI can be very difficult to get out of should the dynamic between the student-athlete and school change (the coach leaves, for example).
In the case of a high-caliber recruit (Hamilton would fit this description), why even sign it? Signing the financial aid agreement by itself accomplishes the same basic goal as the NLI, and it’s easier to make a move to another school if necessary.
And when it comes to a high-caliber player, would the coach really tell him that if he signs the financial aid agreement and not the NLI they won’t hold a scholarship for him? Tough to see a program taking that stance.
Of course Hamilton can attend another school, but with the signing of the NLI that would mean that he’d have to sit out the upcoming season and lose a year of eligibility. Is he willing to take this step if the appeal is denied?
This development comes just three days after another shooting guard from Los Angeles, 6-2 Andre Spight, learned that he did not qualify academically and as a result he’ll attend junior college this upcoming season.
So within a week UTEP has lost two quality players at the shooting guard position.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.