The GW men’s basketball team will start the season with only four scholarship players with NCAA playing experience and may also be without one of its recruits, an unlucky turn of events for a program that drew one of the best recruiting classes in recent school history this year.
Sophomore forward Tamal Forchion, an expected starter after averaging nearly eight points and four rebounds per game last season, suffered a broken ankle in early August when 290-pound former Temple center Ron Rollerson fell on his foot during a summer workout.
Head coach Karl Hobbs said he is awaiting further word from doctors on the expected recovery time from the injury, but said Forchion could return as early as December or could be sidelined for as long as the entire season. Forchion did not respond to interview requests.
“He was coming along great, and that’s what so devastating to some degree about his injury,” Hobbs said. “It’s a huge setback, but those things happen.”
While Forchion will return to the team after rehabilitation, swingmen Marquin Chandler and Darrio Scott will not be back in GW uniforms because they are transferring. Scott is transferring to Middle Tennessee State University and Hobbs said Chandler will likely be attending a school closer to his home in Oakland, Calif. Neither Chandler nor Scott could be reached for comment.
Chandler, a junior, was suspended for the first 11 games of last season, serving an NCAA suspension for a phone-card scandal that occurred under former coach Tom Penders, but had some solid performances later in the year. The 6-foot-6 forward led the Colonials to a win over LaSalle Jan. 13 with 20 points and nine rebounds and also tied a school record with 10 offensive rebounds Jan. 6 against Duquesne.
Hobbs said the decision for Chandler to leave the team was “mutual,” adding, “there were some expectations that he had to live up to that he didn’t, and we both thought it was in his best interests for him to find a place a little bit closer to home.”
Chandler had been at GW for two years, but Hobbs said he was homesick and wanted to be closer to his family.
Being closer to home was not likely an issue for Darrio Scott, whose family lives in Lynchburg, Va. After averaging just more than 10 minutes per game last season, he “wanted to play more minutes and thought he would have a better chance of doing so somewhere else,” Hobbs said.
Scott was impressive early in his freshman year, averaging nearly eight points in two exhibition games, but saw his production dwindle when given more playing time later in the year. He played only one minute in the team’s Atlantic 10 Tournament loss to Massachusetts March 6.
Hobbs was positive about Chandler’s and Scott’s decisions to transfer, despite his shortened roster.
“I don’t think either of them were unhappy, I just think that they wanted to pursue other things,” he said. “That happens in basketball, and that’s what’s great about this country. Being able to make choices is what it’s all about, and they made choices to go elsewhere and that’s great.”
The third would-be returning player from last year’s team to leave the squad was Matija Debevec, a center from Slovenia who played only two minutes all season and did not score a single point. Hobbs said Debevec returned home to pursue a spot on a professional team.
GW’s strong recruiting class counters the loss of Chandler, Scott and Jaason Smith, who graduated, but the team may soon be without its last recruit, Carl Elliot. Elliot is awaiting the decision of the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse on whether he will be able to play when the season starts or at all this season because of questions about his academic eligibility.
Hobbs said he expects to hear from the NCAA Clearinghouse soon and declined to comment further, but the unknown status of Elliot’s eligibility does not fare well for a team that has already seen its depth of quality players diminished.
Hobbs remains optimistic about the upcoming season.
“It’s been truly a rebuilding process, and thank God Chris Monroe was here or we’d literally be starting with no bricks, but I feel like this year is the start of us building a program,” he said. “This is the first group of recruits that we are bringing in that we’ve actually seen them play and recruited them.”
With the recent loss of available players to start the season, the success of the Colonials this season will likely depend on the ability of GW’s highly touted freshman class to contribute.
“They’re freshmen, so they’re going to have to come along very quickly,” Hobbs said. “Obviously when you look at the number of players that we have, they’re going to be thrown in there right away, so it’s going to be a matter of them improving every day.”