USF releases freshman Akol from scholarship
USF announced Friday that the school has released incoming 6-foot-11 freshman power forward Teeng Akol from his scholarship, an unexpected development just a month before the start of fall classes.
"It is really hard for us to lose Teeng. He is a great kid," coach Stan Heath said in a statement. "We love him and we were developing a great relationship. Unfortunately, USF was not the right fit for him. We will do everything to we can to make sure he ends up at the right institution and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors."
According to the university registrar's office, Akol was enrolled in summer classes, taking two credit-hours of classes, but dropped the class Wednesday, with two weeks remaining in the six-week term.
The statement also included a quote from Akol: "Coach Heath and I will remain friends for a long time. We had a strong relationship throughout my recruitment and he will remain a good friend. The players welcomed me in and we were developing a relationship quickly. I expect them to do big things this year, unfortunately USF was not the right fit for me and I have to move on."
Akol's advisor, Fatah Muraisi, said Friday that his decision was "not about not liking USF" and not related to basketball. Akol had been provisionally accepted into USF and allowed to enroll in summer classes with his teammates, but was told this week that he would not be accepted into the university. Muraisi said Akol "just wanted to go in another direction," but it appears he did not have a choice.
"It's something personal," Muraisi said. "I know he struggled with his decision. He loved the guys, loved the coaches."
Because Akol was not admitted to USF, it appears he will be able to sign elsewhere and play this season despite taking classes at USF. Typically, an athlete would have to have a year in residence at a new school before being eligible to play. Muraisi listed several schools as options for Akol, including Missouri, Fresno State and UNLV; he also mentioned West Virginia, but Big East policy does not allow basketball players to transfer from one member school to another. It's unclear whether Akol falls under that policy, given his set of circumstances.
"I'm not going to block any school. I'd hate to play against him, but I want what's best for him," Heath said. "It's a huge loss. You don't find 6-10 kids who can run and shoot just sitting around at the park. Somebody will have to step up for us."
Akol did not return messages seeking comment. Power forward was a problem for USF last season and a priority for Heath in recruiting; the Bulls have freshmen Eladio Espinosa and Gene Teague, as well as senior Aris Williams, who has been limited by injuries in his two seasons at USF. Akol's departure puts even greater significance on the hardship waiver USF is seeking that would allow Maryland transfer Gus Gilchrist, a highly touted forward/center, to play for the Bulls this season.
Akol, a 6-foot-11 recruit from Sudan who attended IMG Academy in Bradenton, is the second recruit Heath has lost from his incoming class, once eight players strong. Point guard Dwan McMillan did not meet the NCAA minimum admission requirements and will not be enrolled at USF this fall.