Adam Smith's departure would leave a scoring void in the UNCW backcourt.
The UNCW men’s basketball program could be headed for yet another roster overhaul next season, after three of the top four scorers on this season’s team asked for their official release.
Freshman guards K.K. Simmons and Adam Smith – both from the Atlanta area – and sophomore wing Donte Morales want to transfer out of the program in the wake of a 10-21 season (5-13 Colonial Ahtletic Association) that started with promise but turned south. After winning 7 of 9 games around the turn of the calendar, the Seahawks finished 3-14 for their fifth losing season in six years.
All three players have been given permission to talk to other schools, and will be allowed to transfer provided they have a 2.6 grade point average or higher.
Head coach Buzz Peterson is confident all three players will leave the program.
“I hate losing anybody,” Peterson said Monday morning from New Orleans, where he’s attending the Final Four. “We’ll get by this. It agonizes me a little bit that it’s so easy for them to leave.”
Peterson said each player cited personal reasons, including concerns about being ineligible for the postseason in 2012-13 due to academic sanctions, and style of play.
Their departure would continue a disturbing trend at UNCW, where eight players have transferred out of the men’s basketball program since the 2008-09 postseason.
UNCW is expected to proceed with caution in releasing any players due to the program’s current Academic Progress Rate (APR) situation that currently has it ineligible for the 2012-13 postseason, pending an appeal and potential rules changes by the NCAA. Player retention is one of two current prongs in adding up APR, and a program is penalized if transferring players have below a 2.6 grade point average.
If all three players leave, Peterson will return only two experienced scholarship guards – Freddie Jackson and Tanner Milson – while adding redshirt freshmen Craig Ponder, a point guard, and Luke Hager, a wing.
Smith and Simmons were key pieces in the eight-man recruiting class Peterson signed before last season, and were expected to be the backbones of his rebuilding effort.
Both showed flashes, although neither shot 40 percent from the field or showed they could ably defend the CAA’s elite guards.
Smith (6-foot-1, 160 pounds) scored 425 points, second all-time for a UNCW freshman, and broke Brett Blizzard’s rookie single-game scoring record with a 32-point outburst in a December loss at Wake Forest. But his production tailed off in the final month. He was 15-for-57 (26.3 percent) from the field in the Seahawks’ last six games.
“Adam had a heckuva year,” Peterson said. “We gave him 13 shots and 31 minutes a game. I don’t know what else we could’ve done for him.”
Simmons started 12 of the first 22 games before serving a three-game suspension in February for “conduct detrimental to the team.” He returned in a reserve role in the four games following his suspension, but did not play in either game in the CAA Tournament.
Morales was Peterson’s first official recruit, signing with the program in May 2010, one month after the coach was hired. He started 48 games in two seasons and averaged 7.2 points per game – third on the team – in 2011-12.
All-CAA forward Keith Rendleman, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, is considering taking a redshirt season if the Seahawks are ineligible for the postseason in 2012-13.
That scenario would leave Milson (5.5 points per game) as the team’s leading returning scorer.
“Either you want to be here or you don’t,” Peterson said. “We have guys in the program who want to be here. This lets us move forward and get ready for next year.”