Winthrop men's basketball coach Randy Peele announced Tuesday that Martaveous Smith, a 6-foot-9 post player from Georgia, has not been cleared by the NCAA Initial Eligibility Center and has enrolled at Tallahassee Community College. Smith signed a national letter of intent with Winthrop in November 2009 and graduated from Burke County High School in Waynesboro, Ga., this spring.
"We wish Martaveous the best and we look forward to the day when he will be wearing a Winthrop uniform," Peele said in a short statement issued by Winthrop's athletic department.
The NCAA Initial Eligibility Center is an organization that clears student-athletes for initial eligibility in NCAA Division I and II athletic programs based on their high school academic careers.
Smith was perhaps Winthrop's top recruit this year.
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ESPN.com gave Smith an 87 on its grading system that rates players on a scale from 40 to 100 with scores of 90 or higher being major college talent. A score of 87-89 is referred to as a Mid-major plus prospect. Under those guidelines the website believes those players "could contribute for three or four years at a high-major program or have a significant impact as a freshman at a mid-major program".
Smith will play this season for coach Eddie Barnes at the same school that produced former Eagles' center Andy Buechert. Peele said he saw Barnes this summer and told him that placing Smith at the school was a possibility.
Tallahassee has produced many basketball players that have continued their playing careers at four-year colleges. Jeremy Robinson is a reserve senior guard at Radford who played for Barnes.
Smith's eligibility has been in question for "some time" according to Peele.
"It is something we've been working on. Since we finished up (summer youth basketball) camp, that is all we have worked on," Peele said.
Smith is still firm in his commitment to play for Winthrop, Peele assured.
With Smith out of the picture, the Eagles are now very thin at the post position. Buechert has graduated. Chris Malcolm transferred out. Senior Charles Corbin is suspended until the conclusion of the fall semester final exam period (Dec. 14).
Winthrop will begin the 2010-2011 season with juniors Matt Morgan (9.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and George Valentine along with redshirt-freshman Julius Francis to fill the power forward and center positions. Valentine (4.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg) played just seven games last year before a broken bone in his hand ended his season.
Peele signed two other freshmen, 6-5 swingman Joey Jerome and 6-9 guard/forward Derrick Scott. Jerome played the point, shooting guard and small forward positions in high school. Scott is a lanky shooter with great range; not a post player.
Peele said Tuesday that he and his staff are looking at their options now that Smith's scholarship is available. Winthrop has just 12 players on its roster as of now with only two seniors, Corbin and point guard Justin Burton.
Peele said they will approach their recruiting as if they have three scholarships for the 2011-2012 seasons. He added they will take a good look at student-athletes that are transferring to see if they can find another player of Morgan's ilk. Morgan transferred from St. Bonaventure following his freshman year.