An ugly situation with the Houston Cougars finally gained some clarity on Friday when the university finally agreed to release its two leading scorers, TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House, from their scholarships. There is a catch, however. Houston wouldn't do it without heavy restrictions.
According to Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports, Thomas and House are free to transfer to any school except:
Any Division-I school in the state of Texas
Any current schools in the American Athletic Conference, or any school that is currently scheduled to leave or join the league in the next two years
Any school on Houston's 2014-15 or 2015-16 schedule
Both players are from Texas, so that first restriction is likely to be fought hard by Thomas and House and their families. They plan to appeal the restrictions in the coming days to hopefully open up their options a bit more.
Why is Houston doing this?
The reasons Houston and new coach Kelvin Sampson don't want Thomas and House to transfer are obvious. Thomas, a 6'8 junior, led the Cougars with 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds a game last season. He converted on 59 percent of his shot attempts from the floor, and if he fared just slightly better at the free throw line, he would be one of the top scoring forwards in all college basketball. House, a 6'7 sophomore, was second on the team in scoring at just over 13 points per game. He also averaged five rebounds and two assists a night.
If Thomas and House returned to the Cougars, they would be strong candidates for an NCAA Tournament bid next year. It will be a rough transition under coach Sampson without them.
"I want (Sampson's decision to not let them transfer) to go viral," House told MyFoxHouston. "I want people to know that they're holding us hostage, that they just don't want to give us our release. They give one of my teammates his release and let him talk to (other) schools and they're not giving me my release.
"I think it's unfair. It's not right."
House makes a valid point. Two years ago, he was a five-star recruit out of Missouri City, Texas, and held scholarship offers to powerhouses like Arizona, Georgetown, Kansas, Ohio State and Texas. He elected to stay home and play for James Dickey and the Cougars. He could have gone anywhere in the country.
Now, the university, which fired Dickey last month and hired Sampson on April 2 without getting any real kind of influence from the players, is potentially compromising House's future. It looks like a case of sour grapes from the outside, but House has the talent and size to play in the NBA one day and now he may be severely limited in where he can continue his playing career.
Thomas was a fringe top-150 recruit out of high school, and he has dramatically improved over the last few seasons. He has just one season of eligibility remaining, but college coaches around the country would be all over him given his size and skill on the floor. Players who average upwards of 10 points and eight rebounds a game during their first three years of college don't exactly grow on trees.
It's a messy situation, and hopefully one that will get cleared up sooner rather than later. The process of granting Thomas and House their releases has taken long enough. Transfers are a key part of today's college basketball game, and teams are probably best off just granting these young student-athletes their release whenever the school fires the guy they gave a pledge to out of high school.