Royce Woolridge and James Hunter are leaving the Washington State basketball program, the school announced today. Additionally, Jermaine Morgan -- who signed a letter of intent in the early signing period -- is being released from his obligation.
"I greatly enjoyed my visits with James and Royce and respect their reasons for moving on," Kent said in a statement. "We wish them the best and consider them both to be great young men."
Woolridge cited a desire to be closer to his ailing grandmother in Arizona, while Hunter is expected to move back to Australia to pursue professional options. Both Woolridge and Hunter would have been fifth-year seniors, which means that Woolridge -- who is on track to graduate this summer -- will be immediately eligible to play wherever he lands. (Grand Canyon, which only recently moved up to Division I and has been a refuge for major conference players, seems like a good bet for a landing spot.)
"I want to thank Coach Kent for the opportunity that he's given me and everyone else at WSU," Woolridge said in a statement through WSU. "I believe with all my heart that he will take this program to the next level, but my responsibilities are with my family and my grandmother. I commend Coach Kent for being so understanding. I've enjoyed my three years here and am proud that I will be able to call myself a Washington State graduate. I am looking to continue my education by attending graduate school and playing my final season at a school in Arizona to be closer to my grandmother."
If you're thinking this is just coach- and player-speak for cleaning house in the wake of a coaching change, that's probably the reason for Hunter's departure. But in an interview with Cougfan.com, Woolridge insisted the reason he's giving really is the reason:
"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."
Meanwhile, Kent said Morgan also wanted to be closer to home because of some unspecified family illness issues.
This leaves WSU with four scholarships to offer in the late signing period, which begins tomorrow. We'll be back with some more analysis on that in a bit.