DePaul won't release Pitchford
DePaul recruit Walter Pitchford will not be granted a release from his letter of intent, the school announced on Wednesday.
Pitchford is a 6-foot-10 forward from Grand Rapids, Mich., who played at New Creations Basketball Academy in Richmond, Ind., last season.
"I called the athletic director [Jean Lenti Ponsetto] and told her we wanted our release," Walter Pitchford, Sr. said on Wednesday. "She said, 'We want to release him, but we want to recruit someone to take his place at the same time.' I said, 'Fine.' She also indicated to me that she had talked to the president, Father Dennis [Holtschneider], and he was in agreement in relation with Walter. I felt comfortable that at least we'll get Walter his release even if it takes 30 days. Then today, I hear he's been denied.
"When the president of the school and athletic director say he should get his release and something else happens, that concerns me a great deal. That's where I want to start -- right there with Father Dennis. Because she clearly relayed to me that she had talked to Father Dennis about Walter's situation, and that both of them agreed he should get his release. Now, we're looking at something different."
Lenti Ponsetto denied the scenario through a DePaul spokesperson on Wednesday. The spokesperson said Lenti Ponsetto had told Pitchford his son might be released if another recruit was found, and that she made no promises.
DePaul also released a statement on Wednesday.
"Despite recent media reports of Walter Pitchford being released from the National Letter of Intent he signed in November 2009, DePaul University is committed to Walter and is looking forward to him joining the program for the 2010-11 season," the statement said. "Walter showed nothing but enthusiasm to attend DePaul University throughout the recruiting process and since he signed the NLI to join the men's basketball program. At this time, the athletics department does not intend to grant the release, and has notified the NLI Steering Committee as its provisions require."
Pitchford said his son sought his release because of DePaul's change in head coaches since Pitchford signed his letter of intent. Pitchford committed to DePaul while Jerry Wainwright was coach and signed his letter of intent in November.
But Pitchford said there also were serious medical issues within the family. He acknowledged DePaul did not know about the family's medical troubles.
"We thought with the coaching change that would be sufficient," he said.
"[Walter's] an upbeat guy. He's taking it as well as he can. The former coach [Wainwright] got Walter there very luckily. It was more by my doing than Walter's. I'm originally from Chicago. The former coach promised Walter the world and that he would be the poster boy of the program. Now all that's disappeared. It's not fair how it's being handled."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.