Top-10 recruit attempts early enrollment to Duke

July, 16, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: Andy Katz is taking a well-earned vacation, thus no Daily Word this week. Andy and his DW will return in full force on Monday, July 27.

When guard Elliot Williams abruptly left Duke last month to transfer to the University of Memphis and closer to home to deal with a family illness, the Blue Devils' staff and the father of Class of 2010 commitment Andre Dawkins started to discuss the possibility of an early arrival for the 6-4 guard, who is ranked as the No. 10 player in his class in the ESPNU 100.

The program, after all, was down to only two guards on its entire roster: Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith. They were the only players shorter than 6-7 on the team.

So, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation, Andre's father (also named Andre) told the Duke staff to have the university's academic adviser look at Dawkins' transcript to see if an early admission was possible.

According to the source, Dawkins already had the necessary 16 core classes, a qualifying test score and the appropriate corresponding GPA to be admitted to Duke. Dawkins has been in high school for four years, starting out at Deep Creek High (Va.) in ninth grade before transferring to Atlantic Shores Christian High (Va.), where he repeated the same grade. That was done for basketball reasons, not academics, according to the source.

There was one hurdle, though. A player must be a high school graduate in order to be admitted. So this summer, Dawkins is taking the last class he needs to graduate.

Dawkins won't be able to officially sign until November. He was part of Duke's highly touted 2010 class with power forward Joshua Hairston (Montrose Christian School, Md.) and point guard Tyler Thornton (Gonzaga College High, D.C.). On the ESPNU 100, Dawkins is listed as the No. 2 shooting guard in the Class of 2010, Hairston the No. 9 power forward and Thornton the No. 20 point guard. Hairston and Thornton are expected to sign in November as well. first reported the possibility of Dawkins playing at Duke next season and the Daily Press (Va.) reported in its Thursday edition that he is considering the move. The Daily Press reported that Dawkins was planning to leave Atlantic Shores for Hargrave Military Academy (Va.) if he were to play a fifth year of high school.

The source with direct knowledge said Thursday that if Dawkins does graduate high school, there is no reason to believe he won't play at Duke next season.

The case is similar to Daniel Hackett's decision to attend USC early after the tragic death the previous spring of former USC point guard Ryan Francis. Francis was murdered in Baton Rouge, La., in May 2006. Hackett graduated early from St. John Bosco High (Calif.) and enrolled in the fall of 2006. He declared for the NBA draft and left USC after his junior season and plans to play in Europe, possibly in his birthplace of Italy.

Hackett filled a need for the Trojans, who had to have a point guard after Francis' death. The Blue Devils were in need of a game-breaking wing who can score off the dribble once Williams was gone and Gerald Henderson left a year early for the NBA draft. Henderson was taken by Charlotte at No. 12 in the NBA draft last month.

Williams was a key member of the Blue Devils down the stretch of his freshman season. He averaged just 4.2 points and shot 25 percent on 3s. But Williams played sparingly until Feb. 19, when he was suddenly thrust into a major role, playing 31 minutes in a win at St. John's. That was the same game, following consecutive losses at North Carolina and at Boston College, where Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski inserted Scheyer into the starting point guard role.

The Blue Devils went 10-2 to end the season with the new lineup. Williams, who didn't get into the Carolina or BC games, played more than 30 minutes in seven of the 12 games.

If he enrolls early, Dawkins would fill the void left by Williams in the rotation, settling in with Scheyer and Smith. The Blue Devils wouldn't have to slide Lance Thomas to a perimeter position if Dawkins were added. They could keep Kyle Singler and Thomas in their more natural positions up front. The Blue Devils were already planning on being a much bigger team with Singler, Thomas, Brian Zoubek, Ryan Kelly, Miles and Mason Plumlee rotating up front.

Dawkins is billed as a Henderson-like clone who can shoot the ball with range. The source with direct knowledge said Duke wasn't rushing Dawkins to campus, but was pleasantly surprised his early admission was doable. The source said Duke was "shocked to find that he was that far along."

• Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery got more than a gold medal when he went to New Zealand to aid Pitt coach Jamie Dixon at the Under-19 World Championships. Lowery found out how to be an assistant coach again.

While he coached the players on the floor, Dixon put Lowery and fellow assistant Matt Painter of Purdue in charge of substituting.

"I got to listen to the players gripe about why they were coming out," Lowery said. "I became a head coach so young that I was totally disconnected with guys when I first got the job. You're trying to prove so much as a head coach that you lose that side of you. It helped me understand why things are the way they are."

Lowery got the head-coaching job when he was 31 after Painter left SIU to be Gene Keady's replacement-in-waiting at Purdue. He took the Salukis to three straight NCAA tournaments from 2005 to '07.

"I felt like I lost that side of me," said Lowery, now 37. "The side that was able to deal with the players on that level. I have a terrific relationship and still do. I think this helped me to feel like I can help them in other ways, not just basketball."

Lowery said when he was subbing for Dixon he connected better with the players.

"Before there would be complaining [at Southern Illinois] and I wouldn't know it or ignore it and just worry about coaching the game," Lowery said. "I want them to come to me."

The Salukis had one of the youngest teams in the Missouri Valley last season, but still managed to finish tied for fifth with Evansville and Wichita State at 8-10. The Salukis lose guard Bryan Mullins but return the core of their team with rising junior Carlton Fay and rising sophomores Kevin Dillard, Anthony Booker, Ryan Hare and Nick Evans. Iowa transfer Tony Freeman is eligible after sitting out the year and Lowery expects him to be a big-time talent for the Salukis, who will also welcome stud JC transfer scoring wing Jack Crowder. Crowder was a JC All-American and wasn't picked up by SIU until June 10. The 6-4 wing led Cowley College in Kansas with 21 points a game.

"We didn't have any tweeners last year," Lowery said. "We were missing that 6-5 scoring guard."

With the majority of its team returning, Northern Iowa will still be picked to win the Valley. Creighton, Illinois State and Wichita State should be in the mix for the title as well. But the Salukis shouldn't be far behind. And Lowery is expecting to be an even better communicator, listener, and ultimately, coach.

• The L.A. Times reported Thursday that Fairfax High big man Renardo Sidney is still having issues being cleared by the NCAA to play at Mississippi State. The newspaper reported that the Sidney family hasn't turned over requested financial records that deal with how it paid for a rented upscale home near Fairfax. According to the Times, Mississippi State views the possibility of Sidney playing for the Bulldogs in the fall as "50-50."

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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