Departures of Jefferson, Hargrow to go unfilled
LITTLE ROCK -- The University of Arkansas' basketball roster will be two players shorter than it could have been this season with one recruit opting for the NBA straight out of high school and a transfer possibly returning to Minnesota.
Coach Stan Heath said in a statement Friday that it appears two scholarships will go unused with the star of the incoming recruiting class, Al Jefferson, skipping his college career and the release of Moe Hargrow, who would have been eligible to play this spring.
"Our core unit is intact and we have built around that unit. We have a strong nucleus of returning players. As long as that core unit is intact, we feel very good about our season," Heath said.
The Boston Celtics selected Jefferson in the Thursday night draft, making the 6-foot-9, 265-pound power forward from Prentiss, Miss., the 15th overall pick. As a senior at Prentiss, he averaged 42.6 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks.
Although he entered the draft, Jefferson never hired an agent, leaving open the possibility he could play at Arkansas if he wasn't a first-round pick.
"Al is fulfilling a dream. We know he is very excited and we are excited for him. We will follow his career with great interest," Heath said.
Whether or not Jefferson would ever play a minute of college basketball has been a topic of talk-radio debate ever since he signed with the Razorbacks. Hargrow's departure is more unexpected.
In the statement, Heath said Hargrow "is facing several challenges in his life that are non-basketball-related" so the university chose to release him. Heath gave no further explanation.
"We feel his being at home will better help him deal with his challenges. Neither Moe nor his mother have requested this. We are doing this in order to give them and the University of Minnesota a chance to exchange dialogue," Heath said.
Hargrow transferred to Arkansas in January after averaging 31 minutes and 11.4 points per game for the Golden Gophers in the first half of the season. The senior would be eligible at Arkansas for half the season this year or the entire season next year.
A university spokesman said it is unlikely Hargrow will be on the Fayetteville campus this fall. University of Minnesota athletic officials said his release was received Friday but coaches had not yet scheduled any discussions with him.
Minnesota newspapers have reported that Hargrow wants to return to his old school, but whether he would be welcomed back after his midseason departure was unclear.
Two other Arkansas players also will be missing this season. Heath announced in March that he had not renewed the scholarships of sophomores Kendrick Davis and Wen Mukubu. He gave no explanation.
Davis played in 25 of Arkansas' 28 games last season, averaging 5.4 points and 12.7 minutes per game as the team's sixth leading scorer. Mukubu played in 24 games and averaged 1.2 PPG.
The Razorbacks have four starters and eight lettermen returning from last year's 12-16 team.
With Jefferson out, Heath's recruiting class includes 6-foot-11 center Steven Hill, 6-foot-10 center Darian Townes, 6-foot-7 forward Charles Thomas and 6-foot-6 junior college point guard Dontell Jefferson. Football signee Marcus Monk, a 6-6 guard/forward, also is expected to join the squad.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press