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First, the head coach. Now, possibly a team captain. What's next?
University of Toledo freshman guard Jake Barnett asked for and was granted a release from his scholarship yesterday to seek a possible transfer, 12 days after Gene Cross suddenly quit as head men's basketball coach.
Barnett led the Rockets in scoring this past season with 12.9 points per game and two weeks ago was named to the All-Mid-American Conference freshman team.
"I love the University of Toledo," Barnett said in a university-issued statement. "I have enjoyed my time here thus far, and I am certain that I will continue to have a positive experience if I choose to stay. I feel, given this time of transition for our basketball program, that it is important that I protect my future by seeking a release and exploring all available options.
"However, I want to be clear that I have not made any definitive decision about my future at this time and may very well choose to stay here at UT if it is the best fit for myself, my teammates and our new coaching staff."
Barnett declined an interview request for further comment through UT athletic department spokesman Paul Helgren, who confirmed last night that Barnett was still on campus and enrolled in classes.
"Obviously we would like to see Jake stay at the University of Toledo," UT athletic director Mike O'Brien said in a statement. "He has been a great representative of our program on and off the court. However, Jake has asked for his release in order to explore other options and we have honored that request."
The Rockets finished the 2009-10 season with a program-worst 4-28 record and are also in the midst of a coaching search following Cross' resignation March 11. Cross posted an 11-53 mark in two seasons as head coach.
UT assistant Bob Sundvold has since been named the team's acting head coach, but declined to comment last night through a university spokesman.
At a news conference March 14 following Cross' resignation, Barnett was asked if he had any thoughts of transferring.
"I really don't know where I'm going," Barnett replied. "I know right now that I like Toledo. This is where I came, and I love the guys on my team. I love the coaching staff that's here right now. I like Coach Sundvold a lot. I'm just looking forward to coming in and going to class, working out here at Toledo, and hopefully next year it'll continue the same."
Barnett and junior forward Justin Anyijong were then posed with a follow-up question asking if both were 100 percent committed to UT and planned on being back with the program next season, and both answered, "Yes."
At that same news conference, Sundvold admitted a coaching change can be hard on a team.
"The players can only control what they can control, and that's going to school, getting their degree, being eligible," Sundvold said. "At one time I was at Iowa State and we had a coaching change. Hey, we had kids fall off the table. I mean, it just was devastating to them and by the end of the semester they weren't able to go anywhere.
"I told our guys they had to take care of their business, which is academics and working on their game."
As for Barnett's business and future plans, that remains to be seen.
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