Thomas signs four, might lose two
MIAMI -- Florida International Golden Panthers coach Isiah Thomas has signed four junior college players, the first batch of scholarships given out by the Hall of Fame player since taking the job.
But Thomas, the former New York Knicks coach and president who was named FIU coach earlier this month, also likely will be losing two players.
Redlands Community College (Okla.) forward Marvin Roberts and guard Antoine Watson, along with Connors State (Okla.) guard Stephon Weaver, have signed letters of intent, the school said Tuesday.
We have nothing against Isiah Thomas or the FIU basketball program. But Freddy didn't come to FIU to play for a new coach. He came to FIU to play for [former FIU coach] Sergio Rouco under those conditions ... Freddy has asked for a release and we're awaiting to get that release.” -- Art Alvarez, Freddy Asprilla's AAU coach
In addition, the Miami Herald reported that Phil Gary Jr., a point guard at Chicago Malcolm X Community College, will join FIU.
Soto has decided to turn pro in Puerto Rico, and Thomas said: "We will do everything to assist Josue in his decision to play professional basketball in Puerto Rico," according to the newspaper.
Asprilla, the Sun Belt freshman of the year last season, appears to be a different issue. He has requested his release from the school, which has not been granted, and he returned to Colombia last Friday, the Herald reported.
"We have nothing against Isiah Thomas or the FIU basketball program,'' Art Alvarez, Asprilla's AAU coach, told the Herald. "But Freddy didn't come to FIU to play for a new coach. He came to FIU to play for [former FIU coach] Sergio Rouco under those conditions. His coach was just dismissed, and the combination of Josue leaving left him with uncertainty. Freddy has asked for a release and we're awaiting to get that release.''
Thomas, however, still wanted to speak with Asprilla.
''We want to do what's best for Freddy,'' Thomas said in the Herald. "We understand this is an emotional time for him with his coach being let go. We want to leave the door open at FIU for Freddy and I would like to talk with him when the time is right. I believe the players we have signed thus far will complement him real well.''
Roberts -- touted by FIU as the leading junior college scorer in the nation this past season, averaging nearly 30 points per game -- is from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Watson, a 6-4 guard from Raleigh, N.C., played with Roberts at Redlands and averaged 24.8 points a game.
Weaver is a 6-3 guard from Forest City, Ark., who led Connors State to the NJCAA Final Four last season, averaging 17 points a game.
Gary, a 5-10 point guard, recorded three triple-doubles last season at Chicago Malcolm X and averaged 19 points and nine assists, according to the Herald.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.