Arizona has refused to grant freshman Jeff Withey's request to transfer, leaving his status -- and the Wildcats' frontcourt -- unsettled.
Withey, a 6-foot-10 center, asked for his release last week. In a meeting Monday night with Withey and his parents, Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood denied the request.
"My very simple reason is I firmly believe, as the letter of intent states, that he needs to stay a full academic year," Livengood said to the Arizona Daily Star. "At the end of [the year] -- as I told him last night -- I would gladly release him if he wanted."
The Wildcats have been in a state of flux ever since Lute Olson announced his retirement as the men's basketball coach Oct. 23. Three players who had committed to Arizona for 2009 -- Abdul Gaddy, Mike Moser, and Solomon Hill -- withdrew their commitments within days.
As it was, two players who were supposed to be part of Arizona's 2008 recruiting class with Withey have already departed. Guard Brandon Jennings made a highly publicized decision in July to play professionally in Rome while waiting to be eligible for the 2009 NBA draft., and in June, forward Emmanuel Negedu was granted a transfer. Negedu has since enrolled at Tennessee.
Withey, ranked No. 43 overall and No. 8 among centers on ESPNU's top 100 for the 2008 class, has not practiced with the team since last Wednesday.
Russ Pennell, the interim coach, told the Daily Star on Tuesday that he had spoken with Withey "only to see how he's doing and make sure he's going to class."
If Withey chooses to transfer to another Division I school without getting the release from Arizona, he will have to sit out the season and lose a year of eligibility, and he would not be able to receive financial aid from the new school.
Curiously, in addition to Negedu's release, Arizona also granted former guard Laval Lucas-Perry a transfer in December 2007. Lucas-Perry left Arizona after only one semester, and enrolled at Michigan.
According to the Daily Star,
Livengood would say in regards to Lucas-Perry that "every situation is different."