Why Woolridge and two others leaving WSU

ERNIE KENT AND the Cougs are going to be major players in the basketball signing period that kicks off tomorrow. Two Cougs – Royce Woolridge and James Hunter – are leaving the program and Washington State has released forward Jermaine Morgan from his Letter of Intent. But this isn't a case of a new coach cleaning house, in fact far from it. CF.C spoke to Woolridge and Kent to get the inside story.

Washington State now has four scholarship slots available -- one left open from last year and three created by the departures announced today. The other spot is taken by Tramaine Isabell, who visited WSU this past weekend. The staff plans on filling all four remaining spots in the signing period that begins tomorrow and runs to May 21, head coach Kent told CF.C today. He didn't offer a positional break down or a time line of when to expect announcements, but he was definitive that all four slots would be filled in this recruiting cycle.

Meanwhile, Woolridge said he would have loved to play for Kent. And Kent said he would have loved to coach him. But there are things that take precedence over basketball.

"I've been pondering it for a while as my grandmother's health has gotten worse and worse and it's at a point where I feel I need to be home and with her," said Woolridge. "...It would mean a lot to her if I could play my last year at home and closer to her.

"It had nothing to do with anything here or Coach Kent or anything like that. Coach Kent has actually helped me a lot with the process of making my decision, he's really been there for me. I really appreciate all he's done."

"I greatly enjoyed my visits with James and Royce and respect their reasons for moving on," Kent said in WSU's release. "We wish them the best and consider them both to be great young men."

Woolridge will leave Pullman next month after finishing up classes and do an internship in the Phoenix area over the summer, the last box to check off before receiving his college diploma from Washington State.

"Coach Kent was extremely understanding and told me to do what I felt was best for my family, he even talked to my mother," said Woolridge. "I commend him for how much he's helped me and I appreciate all he's done even though I won't be able to play for him. I will definitely keep in touch with him. He's shown me just these short couple of weeks what a great person he is and how much he really cares."

Woolridge said that as much as he would like to be part of the turnaround at WSU on the hardcourt, any success wouldn't have meant much had it come at the expense of spending time with his grandmother.

"I know they're going to be successful with Coach Kent coming in here," said Woolridge. "I truly believe they're going to bring some excitement back here and really take it to the next level... But I'd rather be at home and be excited for the players I played with... than being here and having to deal with the loss of a family member - that would have been devastating.

"I'm going to miss the atmosphere, the college town, everyone is so close here...I'm definitely going to miss it."

Woolridge is unsure where he'll play next season as a fifth-year senior. He'll be granted his official release shortly but until that happens, other schools can't talk to him. One possibility could be Grand Canyon University in Phoenix to play under Dan Majerle. They made the jump to NCAA Division I and joined the WAC this past July. Because Woolridge will have graduated from WSU, he won't need to sit out a season.

Woolridge started the past two years at WSU despite battling injuries. He averaged 9.2 points and 2.7 assists per outing -- 11.0 points his first season in 2012-13 after transferring from Kansas. Woolridge is on pace to graduate from WSU with his degree within the 2013-14 academic year.

Meanwhile, Hunter is leaving in search of playing time after appearing in nine games last season and averaging 1.9 minutes, 0.4 ppg and 0.3 rpg. Hunter, said Kent, is headed home to Australia where he plans on eventually playing professionally.

"James Hunter made a very intelligent decision for himself," Kent said. "This is best for him and his future and I wish him well."

Morgan, who signed with WSU in the early period, has some family health issues to attend to. Kent released him from his Letter of Intent so he could stay closer to home and family in Chicago.

"Jermaine Morgan feels he needs to stay closer to home as a member of his family deals with medical issues," Kent said. "I granted him the opportunity to do that by releasing him from his scholarship. We wish him well."

  • The last time WSU had five scholarships to give in a class was five years ago with the 2009 group, (Brock Motum, Reggie Moore, Xavier Thames, Steven Bjornstad, Anthony Brown.)

  • CLICK HERE for Washington State's release announcing the departures.

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