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Archive for Tuesday, April 14, 1998

LUKE AXTELL, A 6-FOOT-9, 205-POUND FRESHMAN AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, WILL TRANSFER TO KANSAS AND BE ELIGIBLE FOR THE 1999-2000 SEASON.

April 14, 1998

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Mop-topped Luke Axtell visited the barbershop before his recent recruiting visit to Kansas University.

``I knew that wouldn't fly with coach (Roy) Williams. The reason I had it (long hair) in the first place is I knew I could get away with it,'' said Axtell, a 6-foot-9, 205-pound freshman shooting guard who has announced plans to transfer from the University of Texas to KU.

Axtell, who averaged 13.3 points and 4.3 rebounds last season, has signed KU scholarship papers and was to drop them in the mail today.

``I had some fun with it last summer,'' he said of his shaggy 'do. ``Coach Penders (Tom, UT) didn't have a problem with it, so I said I'd keep it. Now it's comb-able, but pretty short.''

Axtell's March 17 announcement that he was leaving Texas set in motion a series of events that led to the resignation of Penders. Axtell met with new Longhorn coach Rick Barnes on Monday, and told him he could not be talked into remaining at Texas.

Instead, Axtell will practice but not play in games next season, in accordance with NCAA rules. He'll also be penalized a year of eligibility for transferring within the conference and be a junior in the 1999-2000 season.

Texas has appealed to the Big 12 Conference to classify Axtell as a sophomore. UT athletics director DeLoss Dodds is doing all he can to appease the Axtells because a Texas assistant coach illegally released Axtell's grades to a radio station, in violation of the Buckley Amendment.

``We'll do all we can, but it's not looking good. They tell me it doesn't look like it'll happen,'' Axtell said of regaining a year of eligibility. ``It doesn't bother me.''

He said he'll gladly take one year of practice and two years of playing games at KU.

``The program seems like basketball heaven,'' Axtell said. ``It's what you dream about playing for. It's such a huge change from down here. It's awesome. Honesty, integrity are all big parts of the program. It's what I was looking for.''

Axtell had a much-publicized problem with UT coach Penders, who suspended him a month ago for reported academic problems. UT has since apologized to Axtell and said he did not deserve the academic suspension.

Axtell in the past has admitted his schoolwork is not a strong point -- ``It's hard,'' he told the Austin American-Statesman, ``and definitely not fun'' -- but is finishing the semester at Texas and it's believed he'll earn passing grades.

``It's definitely going from one extreme to another. I guess I was definitely looking for more structure,'' Axtell said.

He said his best season in high school was his sophomore year, when he played for a highly structured coach in Ohio. He played his final two years of high school ball at Westlake High outside Austin.

``I just blossomed,'' Axtell said. ``I went from nobody to ranked 25th in the nation.''

Axtell committed to the Longhorns at the beginning of his junior year in high school.

``I did like Kansas a lot. If I didn't commit early, I'd have gone there,'' he said.

Axtell thinks he'll be able to handle sitting out a year.

``Nothing seems tough after going through what I've gone through here,'' he said. ``I can't wait. It's a great opportunity to work and start getting the teaching I need.''

In his spare time?

``My favorite hobbies are my guitar, hunting and fishing,'' Axtell said. ``I love getting outdoors and doing stuff, riding horses. It's what I want to do in life. Play as long as I can and retire to the ranch.''

NOTES

  • Kansas officials are not allowed to comment until a transfer has actually enrolled.
  • Sherry Rasmus, an attorney for the Axtell family, said Axtell and his family wouldn't seek legal action against the university in response to his grades being released because school officials have been cooperative since the incident.

``Luke had some real concerns about being blamed for everything based on what was said in the media and on radio shows,'' Rasmus said. ``But he also knew that memories are sometimes short when you are scoring a lot of points per game.

``However, he is really positive about the Kansas opportunity. He was very impressed with Kansas coach Roy Williams and his staff and the university after visiting the campus.''

  • KU may be finished in recruiting. Analyst Bob Gibbons says Marlon London, a 6-3 shooting guard from Chicago, has signed his national letter of intent with KU. London, a 6-3 guard, averaged 17 points, six rebounds and four assists for St. Joseph's High School.

London, who is known as a strong defender and good rebounder, is scheduled to visit KU this weekend.

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