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October 21, 2004

Visits on hold for Nation's No. 1

Greenbelt (Md.) Eleanor Roosevelt athlete Derrick Williams is the nation's No. 1 player and needs to commit to the school of his choice by mid-December to enroll in January. So why are his official visits on hold for now?

"Right now it's a situation where Derrick wants myself and my wife to go on these visits with him to help him make the most important decision of his life, but finances are getting in the way," said Dwight Williams, the father of the 6-foot-0, 189-pounder. "I just started a new job after being off work and we can't afford to fly out to all these different places right now. That's the main reason why Southern Cal is out, it's a great school but it's just too expensive for us to make the trip."

Florida has already received an official visit from Derrick and his parents and they will make sure he gets to at least a few others.

"Oklahoma is a school Derrick really wants to see and Tennessee is another one," said Dwight. "Those two we want to make sure we get to. We had a tentative visit date set with Oklahoma for Nov. 12, but we'll see if we can make that or if we'll have to wait until December."

Other schools in the mix include Florida State, Texas, Virginia and Penn State.

"Penn State is only in it if they can string together some wins," said Dwight. "They aren't looking too good right now though. Derrick wanted to see Florida State so we're hoping to make that trip. He's already been to Texas and Virginia so we'll see about those two. Virginia is driving distance for a visit, so that could come into play."

Dwight Williams was laid off last year after 21 years as an Assistant Athletic Director at the University of Maryland. After being out of work for a year, he has found employment, but can't really take time off from work or spend a lot of money traveling.

"It's a tough situation because we could drive to Tennessee for that visit, but it would take 12 hours and I would have to miss a Friday or Monday of work which I can't afford to do right now," he said. "So we can't take any mid-week visits and can't afford to fly too far for others. I hope we get to see at least four schools on official visits, but we'll see."

Dwight thinks it's something the NCAA should look at.

"They made all these little changes to the recruiting rules like not allowing names on jerseys or on scoreboards but they seemed to have missed a big issue," he said. "The kids who want their parents with them on their official visits like Derrick shouldn't be punished because those parents are in a financial situation that doesn't allow them to afford it. If this is happening to one recruit, it's happening to a lot."

Derrick's coach agrees.

"I feel bad for Dwight and Brenda (Derrick's mom) because they have a great kid who is mature enough to realize that he shouldn't be making this decision on his own, but because of things out of their control, they are limited in what visits they can take," said Greenbelt (Md.) Eleanor Roosevelt head coach Rick Houchens. "I think the NCAA should look at it. A lot of the problems that happened on recruiting visits last year happened because there was no parental supervision on official visits and the kids go crazy.

"If the NCAA were to limit it like they did with the kids, then schools should be allowed to pay for a recruit's parents. It's not like Derrick wants to go with a posse or entourage. He wants his mother and father to see the places he might spend the next four or five years and meet the people that Dwight and Brenda will be relying on to watch out for their son."

Houchens thinks simple guidelines could work.

"Limit the flights to coach and limit the amount of money to be reimbursed for hotels and other things," he said. "I know the NCAA is afraid that schools will recruit parents instead of players if they are allowed to pay for parents to attend visits, but in cases where hardship can be proven, something has to be done. Heck, they can make it like financial aid for college if they want, have parents apply for financial reimbursement for visits based on income situations."

The thing that bothers Houchens the most is that Derrick might miss out on a great opportunity.

"USC could be the perfect place for him athletically, academically and socially," he said. "Or he could go out there and realize it's not. Either way, he'll never know and that's a shame. If the only reason a player can't make a visit to a school he's very interested in is because of finances, then it's a shame and someone should look at it."

In the meantime, Derrick is just trying to compete this season and hopes to make a few more trips.

"We're 5-2 and we're closing in on the playoffs, that's my focus," he said. "Recruiting is very important and we're doing our homework on each school, but there's not much else we can do for a few more weeks."

Derrick and his father will appear on The Hotlist on ESPNews this Thursday at 5:50PM EST to talk recruiting as well as the official visit situation and their thoughts on the rules in place.


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