DePaul's Pitchford Appeals for Release; Seton Hall's Willard Says Pope is 'Doing Great' | Zagsblog
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Thursday / October 28.
  • DePaul’s Pitchford Appeals for Release; Seton Hall’s Willard Says Pope is ‘Doing Great’

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    Unable to obtain a release from his scholarship to DePaul, Walter Pitchford Jr., a 6-10 forward/center from Grand Rapids, Mich., has appealed to the NCAA to obtain one.

    “Walter applied to the NCAA for the appeal,” his father, Walter Pitchford Sr, said in an exclusive interview. “I believe the NCAA told him that it will be 30 days before they will be able to take a look at it.”

    DePaul coach Oliver Purnell and team spokesman Greg Greenwell did not answer phonecalls to their offices Thursday seeking comment.

    ZAGSBLOG.com wrote about Pitchford’s desire to be released May 29.

    At that time, Pitchford Jr. said he wanted out due to the coaching change that brought in Purnell as the new coach and also because of concerns about crime in the Chicago area.

    In response, DePaul issued the following statement via email June 2.

    “Despite recent media reports of Walter Pitchford being released from the National Letter of Intent he signed in November 2009, DePaul University is committed to Walter and is looking forward to him joining the program for the 2010-11 season. Walter showed nothing but enthusiasm to attend DePaul University throughout the recruiting process and since he signed the NLI to join the men’s basketball program. At this time, the athletics department does not intend to grant the release, and has notified the NLI Steering Committee as its provisions require.”

    Pitchford Sr. previously said he had been told directly by DePaul AD Jean Lenti Ponsetto “that Walter would be granted a release and she said that she had discussed it with the president of the school [Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider].”

    Pitchford Sr. said the family hasn’t heard from DePaul since the statement was issued nearly a month ago.

    “If the two of them [Ponsetto and Holtschneider] have said that they would release Walter, then it obviously falls on Coach Purnell at this point,” Pitchford Sr. said. “And that’s even more disturbing because I don’t understand how Coach Purnell got hired and he didn’t even come to see Walter.

    “He went to visit all the recruits and didn’t come to see Walter. That’s not right, especially because we live closest to DePaul. We’re only 200 miles away. He could’ve drove here, like Coach [Jerry] Wainwright did.”

    SETON HALL’S WILLARD SAYS POPE IS ‘DOING GREAT’

    Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard says forward Herb Pope is “doing great” after his collapse April 28.

    “Herb’s doing great, Herb’s doing great,” Willard said Thursday. “Taking classes, working, getting back because he did miss quite a few classes. He’s really working hard to get back academically what he needs to do and get back on track for graduation. Herb’s doing pretty good.”

    Willard said he wasn’t able to comment on Pope’s chances of playing basketball next season because of privacy issues.

    “Hopefully soon we’ll be able to comment on all of that and get that out of the way,” Willard said.

    But Charles Smith, the former Knick who is a mentor to Pope, previously said he expected the 6-foot-8 Pope to make “a full recovery.”

    “Yes. Should be a full recovery!” Smith said in May via text.

    Pope was hospitalized for several weeks at St. Barnabas Medical Center and must be cleared by doctors to resume basketball activities. If he is, Seton Hall could be one of the more dangerous teams in the Big East.

    The Pirates return a solid core of Pope, Jeremy Hazell, Jeff Robinson, Keon Lawrence and Jordan Theodore, and have added four new players, including Ole Miss transfer Eniel Polynice. A recent 2011 NBA mock draft projected that Polynice, Hazell and Pope would all be chosen in the second round.

    “I think if Herb Pope returns with that personnel and the type of coach Kevin Willard is, you’re looking at a team that’s possibly a Top-25 team and a team that will contend to be at the top of the Big East,” one Big East assistant coach said in May.

    FREE THROWS

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.