Is Ater Majok Leaving the UConn Program a Sign of Things to Come?Posted by rtmsf on August 30th, 2010
It was easy to overlook on a Friday afternoon filled with various comings and goings, but the Hartford Courant reported that several sources expect UConn center Ater Majok to head to Australia to play professionally in coming weeks, ending a collegiate career that was long on hype but short — very short, in fact — on production. The well-traveled player who entered UConn in the fall of 2008 projected as the next great Husky big man will leave Storrs having scored a grand total of 59 points and secured 80 rebounds in less than one season of action. According to the piece, Majok hasn’t yet formally made the decision to leave, but head coach Jim Calhoun certainly hinted at the possibility:
“We’re talking to Ater about his future, yeah,” Calhoun said. “That’s all I can say. He hasn’t made any decision yet, but he could certainly go back and play in the Australian professional league. Nothing’s been determined yet, but there’s a chance that kind of thing could happen.”
You undoubtedly know Majok’s story — the family that fled war-torn Sudan to land in Egypt; the questions about his NCAA eligibility resulting in a one-year layoff in 2008-09; the declaration and subsequent withdrawal from the 2009 NBA Draft; and the far less than stellar rookie season last year. But the timing on this news is weird. UConn begins fall semester classes today, and all indications over the summer were that Majok was ready for his sophomore campaign (as a 23-year old) as a member of the Huskies. Yet on Thursday night last week, the big man tweeted that “life can take unexpected turns” and Calhoun followed it up on Friday with his quotes discussing Majok’s possible departure.
We sincerely hope that there’s nothing family-related that is pressuring Majok to join the professional ranks in Australia, but we also should echo the sentiment presented by at least one UConn blogger who openly wonders if Majok’s sudden departure might have something to do with his eligibility. UConn is expected to submit its formal response to the NCAA’s allegations about the Nate Miles/Josh Nochimson recruiting improprieties this coming Friday, and if you recall, one of the presumed areas of inquiry had to do with the relationship between Majok and Nochimson at the Derby Classic in 2008. If the Husky response team came into new information that indicted Majok’s eligibility at the school, it’s reasonable to believe that they would cut ties with him in order to show the NCAA that they are serious about compliance.
Regardless of what happens later this week with both Majok’s standing on the team and UConn’s response to the NCAA, the last seventeen months have been nothing short of disastrous for the program. Dropping from the Final Four to the NIT isn’t unheard of in the era of massive personnel turnover, but usually programs like UConn re-stock quickly and are back on top in no time. With Kemba Walker and Alex Oriakhi now the only two significant returnees from the lackluster 2009-10 season, and the Big East looking as brutal as usual, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that UConn was picked eleventh in our Summer School Power Rankings. There is some incoming talent arriving — UConn’s latest class is rated #15 overall by Rivals — but the Huskies are having trouble getting traction with the class of 2011, and you cannot help but wonder if the twin specters of NCAA sanctions as well as Calhoun’s age and related health issues are beginning to manifest in recruits’ minds. Make no mistake: Connecticut remains one of the elite names in all of college basketball, but things are not rosy at all these days in central Connecticut.