Recruits opt out of National Letter of Intent

Bryant Drayton
Contributing Writer

Head coach Will Wade may have to start the season with no incoming scholarship freshman in his repertoire.

For VCU men’s basketball, the 2015 incoming freshman recruiting class was another successful accomplishment for Shaka Smart and his coaching staff. Unfortunately for the Rams, this accomplishment is now an afterthought and a constant reminder of Wade’s predecessor.  After the recent departure of Smart to the University of Texas, questions swirled whether the recruits would stick to their signed letters of intent or decide to leave.  The recruits chose the latter, as VCU was recently notified of Tevin Mack, Justin Murphy and Kenny Williams’ decisions to ask for release from their signed National Letter of Intent.

New head coach Will Wade promised Ram fans that Havoc still lives here, noting there should not be a drop-off in performance as the two sequential styles of play will duplicate each other.  Without Smart at the helm, in all likelihood, VCU’s second ESPN top-25 class in consecutive years, could lose out to larger programs.

Local standout Kenny Williams from Lloyd C. Byrd High School was the biggest surprise out of the three to decide to reopen his recruitment.  The 6-foot 3 shooting guard’s game consists of a pure shooting stroke that almost replicates junior guard Melvin Johnson.  The Chesterfield, Virginia native was a consensus 4-star recruit through multiple sporting websites and chose VCU over the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  Ranked 81st in his class by ESPN, Williams could have provided the late game heroic three-pointers his predecessors Troy Daniels and Johnson were prone to deliver.

Justin Murphy, a 6-foot-7 small forward from San Antonio, Texas was the first recruit to decide not to enter the program.  Murphy, a consensus 3-star recruit did not receive as much attention during the recruiting process as Williams, but his leaping ability and raw talent was perfect for Havocs’ system.  Murphy played high school basketball at William J. Brennan High School where he excelled with the ball in his hands. His 215-pound frame makes him a matchup nightmare, as he is equipped with enough skill moves to drive to the basket instead of his game being limited under the rim.

The prized recruit of the 2015 class was Tevin Mack.  Mack, a 6-foot-6 lethal shooting guard from Columbia, South Carolina was posed to be the answer to replace senior guard/forward Treveon Graham.  Ranked as the 47th prospect in his class overall, Mack hoists a plethora of skills at his disposal, including multiple 40-point performances for Dreher High School. Mack was the beneficiary of 18 scholarship offers with some feeling he may eventually decide to follow Smart to Texas.  

In the midst of all potential student-athlete departures, recent reports pinned freshman forward Justin Tillman as the next to go.  However, Tillman will remain at VCU, surely a bright spot in a tumultuous three weeks for the basketball program.

With three new scholarships open, there is no timetable for VCU to try and fill the vacant roster spots this season or use them at their will in the prospective future. What the Rams do have is enough leadership in the locker room and promising new head coach ready to lead VCU pass the Shaka Smart era and compete for a second straight Atlantic-10 conference championship.   

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