COLUMBIA — Missouri 2014 basketball recruit Namon Wright is seeking release from his national letter of intent, said Ivan Barahona, Wright’s coach at Pacific Hills School, on Sunday.
Wright told his coach that he filed for the release online shortly before Missouri announced its hire of Kim Anderson as head coach on Monday. Wright told Barahona that he also called Missouri last week and asked them to release him.
"They told him, 'Give us time to hire a coach,' but they were taking a pretty long time," Barahona said.
Eleven days passed between former coach Frank Haith's departure for Tulsa and Missouri's hiring of Anderson. Barahona said that in that time Wright decided he wanted to keep his options open, "just in case things don't go well with Missouri and who they bring in" and "if the coaching staff that they hire isn’t one that wants him."
Barahona stressed that time is of the essence.
"Kids are committing all the time, and scholarships are going away," Barahona said.
Wright is a 6-foot-5, 180-pound guard who signed with Missouri in September. He is a four-star recruit and top-100 prospect, according to 247Sports.com, Scout.com and Rivals.com. ESPN has him as a three-star prospect.
Barahona said Anderson will be in Los Angeles on Tuesday to talk with Wright, and he made it clear that Wright is still heavily considering attending Missouri.
"He likes Missouri a lot, let me tell you," Barahona said.
Wright told his coach that Missouri's campus is beautiful, that the people he met there were great, and that he enjoys Missouri's fans who follow him on Twitter.
Wright also enjoyed the attention that Haith and former Missouri assistant coach Mark Phelps, who was "huge" in the recruiting process, Barahona said, showed him during the recruiting process. Phelps joined Steve Wojciechowski's staff at Marquette on April 9.
Haith and Phelps attended multiple practices and two of Wright's games, and they stuck with him throughout a poor AAU season.
"A lot of schools dropped him, but Coach Haith showed faith in him," Barahona said. "That was very huge for Namon that he came all the way from Missouri and had faith in him."
Barahona said Wright was disappointed that Haith left after Wright had pledged to play four years for him.
"At first he was kind of taken aback, a little hurt at first," Barahona said. "We talked many times about this whole recruiting process, but now he understands the whole business of college basketball."
Part of the business of college basketball is that the NCAA does not recognize a national letter of intent as a commitment to a coach. The organization sees it as a commitment to a university, as is explained on NCAA.org.
"The NLI is a contract between a prospective student-athlete and a school, not an agreement between individuals," according to the website. "A student-athlete is obligated to attend the school he or she signed with unless the school agrees to release the student-athlete. If a school entices a prospective student-athlete to sign an NLI by offering an automatic release if a coach leaves, the prospective student-athlete’s NLI may be declared void and the school may face penalties."
Missouri would have to grant Wright release from his letter of intent for him to avoid the penalty of sitting out for a season for switching schools. If Missouri denies Wright's request, he can file an appeal with the National Letter of Intent Office in Indianapolis.
Barahona disagrees with the NCAA's policies.
"When a kid commits, he commits to a university, but he commits to a coach as well," Barahona said. "Half of the equation is gone because Coach Haith is no longer there.
"I just think the NCAA and the university need to understand that. I don't think there should even be any problem. If a kid wants a release, I think it should be granted.”
However, Barahona said that neither the NCAA nor Missouri has given Wright a hard time. He just wants his player to be able to look out for himself and keep his options open.
"He (Wright) just wanted to be able to talk with other coaches and see his options," Barahona said.
Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.