Recruiters turn up heat on Karcher

November 09, 1996|By KEN ROSENTHAL

It's not over. It's not close to over.

In college sports, it's never over until a prospective recruit signs a national letter of intent. Mark Karcher made an oral commitment to Villanova, but that wasn't enough to stop Maryland.

William Wells, Karcher's coach at St. Frances, said yesterday that the Terps are still recruiting the 6-foot-5 swingman, The Sun's Player of the Year as a junior last season.

"He still hasn't wavered, but he's listening," Wells said. "People are still throwing coals on the fire, trying to keep this thing going.

"Mark is tired of the recruiting. He's trying to get this off his back. Maryland is pressing to keep him in the state."

Wells said Seton Hall, Rutgers and Auburn also are continuing to recruit Karcher, while Connecticut "sort of backed off and accepted the fact."

Sources close to Villanova said coach Steve Lappas still expects Karcher to sign a national letter of intent on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period.

"He's orally committed to them. He really liked Villanova," Wells said. "That's where it is right now, as far as I know."

Karcher made his oral commitment to Villanova on Oct. 28, saying, "I'm pretty sure of my decision."

He was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Wells, however, left no doubt that Maryland was still in the picture.

"I know they're going to pull out all the stops to get the kid to change his mind," Wells said. "I know they're going to come."

Going to?

"It's on," Wells said. "It's definitely on. They've made it clear they're going to try and stop this decision to go to Villanova.

"A lot of other schools that were interested backed off. Not Maryland. They seem to be the one that's going to go real hard at him."

Wells said he received a call from Maryland assistant coach Billy Hahn the day after Karcher returned from Villanova, the only school he has visited.

"Is that true?" Hahn asked Wells, referring to Karcher's oral commitment.

Informed it was, Wells said Hahn replied, "He didn't give us a chance."

"From that point on, he told me, 'Coach, I'm going to recruit the kid,' " Wells said. "He hasn't signed. As long as he hasn't signed, I'm going to go and recruit him."

Maryland is not violating NCAA regulations by continuing to recruit Karcher. Oral commitments are non-binding, and rival coaches routinely ignore them when zeroing in on a player.

The Terps are on the other side of it, too.

They've received oral commitments from two top area players, 6-foot-8 forward Terrence Morris of Thomas Johnson in Frederick and 6-foot-2 guard Juan Dixon of Calvert Hall.

The addition of Karcher would give coach Gary Williams his best class ever from the state of Maryland, and one of his best in his seven years at College Park.

What makes Karcher unusual is that he announced his decision without visiting any other schools. Kentucky, Clemson and Miami also were high on his list.

If his idea was to reduce the pressure, it backfired. The intensity only increased after recruiters learned of his plans.

"I told him, 'You dug a hole for yourself when you went up there and said you liked the school,' " Wells said. "To me, he should have went on and visited the five schools.

"If he had visited the five schools and picked Villanova, there would be nothing anyone could say. Everyone would have had a fair chance.

"I do think some of the schools haven't had the chance to show what they had to offer. But that's life. The kid knows what he wants to do. I have to back him. I'm going to support him all the way."

Wells said Villanova might have pressured Karcher, telling him that it would award his scholarship to another player if he delayed his decision.

"But that's recruiting," Wells said.

Indeed, Maryland likely is telling Karcher that he might not get the chance to play with Villanova freshman Tim Thomas if the highly regarded forward enters the NBA draft.

That's recruiting, too.

Wells emphasized that he is taking no sides, that he only wants what is best for Karcher.

All he knows is that it's not over.

And it won't be over, until Mark Karcher signs a national letter of intent.

Pub Date: 11/09/96

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