Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Self gives OK for Downs’ transfer


Micah Downs cell-phoned Bill Self on Tuesday afternoon from his new home: Spokane, Wash., home of Gonzaga University.

"He called. I called him right back. We spoke for 30 minutes. I think it was a matter-of-fact, cordial conversation," Self, Kansas University's basketball coach, said of what had to have been an interesting chat with Downs, a 6-foot-8 freshman guard who a week earlier had announced he was quitting the Jayhawk team.

"What Micah and I visited about should stay between Micah and myself," Self said. "What he said was consistent with his statements last week (about personal reasons to play closer to home)."

During the call, Self said he would release Downs from his national letter of intent, freeing the Kirkland, Wash., native to transfer to Gonzaga, where he will be eligible to play second semester next season as a sophomore.

"Based on reports we received on campus from housing and academics, he has fulfilled requirements to check out as a student and is presently in Spokane, with the intent to attend Gonzaga," Self said Tuesday from his office. "Micah will be issued a release to visit with (Gonzaga coach Mark Few) and attend Gonzaga University."

Self was asked why he was willing to grant a release to a player who departed the team after just one semester of his freshman season.

"Micah and I talked about that at length. Obviously, he is going through some personal things that do need to be addressed that we tried to address here, but obviously he didn't feel could be addressed adequately halfway across the country," Self said.

"This is a unique situation we are not excited at all about occurring or having to deal with nor do we ever want to have to deal with in the future."

Self, who last week said Downs wanted to leave partly because of playing-time issues, was asked Tuesday what the public should know about the 6-foot-8 freshman's problems.

"That they are personal," the coach said, simply.

It's been speculated Downs had few friends on KU's team and spent much of his free time in his apartment phoning his girlfriend, who lives in Washington.

In Tuesday's conversation, Self did not ask Downs if he truly was sick Jan. 21 when he dressed but did not play in KU's 94-54 rout of Nebraska. Had Downs played, he'd have burned a semester of eligibility at Gonzaga.

"Our doctors and trainers led us to believe he was (sick)," said Self, who asked Downs in the second half if he wanted to enter the game. "I went down and said, 'Do you feel good enough to get in?' He said he was not taped. He didn't feel he could play."

Did Downs know at the time he wanted to transfer?

"You'd have to ask Micah," Self said. "He told us he couldn't play. The only reason he suited up was he didn't have proper street clothes to wear that day."

Self was asked if he had a problem with Gonzaga.

"Not to my knowledge," said Self, who was to speak with coach Few after his Tuesday conversation with Downs.

Is Gonzaga a good spot for Downs?

"I can't comment on that," KU's coach said.

It seems Tuesday's conversation was the second Self has had with Downs since last Tuesday. Downs phoned one other time.

"I said (to him) I'd not talk about it until after we played A&M;, Iowa State and Texas Tech," Self said of KU's past three victories.

"He called me last Tuesday because I requested he call to let us know at least he was somewhere safe. When he left, he literally took off (and didn't tell anybody)."

There will be no more calls.

"The thing is, Micah Downs, hopefully after today, will not warrant any of our thought process over the next couple months," Self said. "Our focus needs to be on this team. Obviously, he chose not to be part of it. This is not something that we have enjoyed dealing with at all, and this chapter is closed."

  • Scholarship situation: Now that Downs has departed, KU has two scholarships available in recruiting -- three if Brandon Rush turns pro.

The Jayhawks, who have signed guards Sherron Collins and Brady Morningstar, are recruiting Darrell Arthur, 6-9 from Dallas, and Davon Jefferson, 6-7 from Lynwood, Calif., now at Patterson School in North Carolina.

"We've known the situation with Brandon. We don't know any more than the first day he got here," said Self, who won't talk with Rush about the NBA until after the season. "We need to be prepared. With Sherron (Collins) and Brady (Morningstar) we are in decent position. Obviously, if Brandon were to leave, there's a chance we'd try to recruit somebody else."

Collins, a 5-11 guard from Chicago, still has not qualified academically. He can take standardized tests up to three more times in an attempt to qualify.

  • APR talk: Downs' departure will cost KU a point in the new APR rating system, which tracks graduation rates of players and academic progress made. In February, the NCAA will announce penalties for teams falling below a certain standard. "We're in good shape with that," Self said. "Our grades have been good. We're in good shape in that area."

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