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SoCalHoops Recruiting News

Senior 2002 Signing:  Evan Burns Signs
NLI With UCLA--(April 19, 2002)

Since last week, our regular readers will note there have been a paucity of articles here at SoCalHoops.  No we haven't decided to stop writing, but work (yes, real work) has prevented us from getting in front of the computer for all but the most mundane of tasks.  There's been quite a lot going on in the world of recruiting in the past two weeks or so that we haven't reported about, but we'll play a little catch up here, just to bring everyone up to speed in case you've been living under a rock or on the moon and missed this.

April 10, 2001, or nine days ago, was the first day of the late signing period in which National Letters of Intent could be signed by players committing to enroll this coming fall at a four year NCAA college or university.    Players do not have to actually be "qualified" for freshman eligibility to sign the NLI.  If they eventually do not qualify, either because they don't achieve a high enough score on the SAT or ACT, or don't achieve a high enough GPA (or don't fulfill high school graduation requirements, which is a different story altogether) the National Letter they've signed becomes void.   On the other hand, if they "qualify" for freshman eligiblity and otherwise graduate from high school, they are contractually obligated to attend the college or university where they've signed, and if a student honors the letter and enrolls, the school is obligated to provide a grant-in-aid,  aka a "scholarship."    Under NCAA rules, an athletic scholarship is a one year deal, renewable from year to year.

Signing a National Letter of Intent is not a guarantee that a player will actually enroll at a particular school. If a student doesn't honor the NLI, he must sit out for two years at any other four year school which also subscribes to the NLI program.  A student can get a "qualified release" from his or her NLI from the institution at which he signed, but even with the "qualified release" the sit-out penalty at another institution is one year.   There's an appeals process which players can follow where, under extenuating circumstances, the NLI administrators can release a player unconditionally, i.e., without any sit-out requirement, but that's pretty rare.

A lot of players refuse to sign the NLI because of the harshness of the penalties.  Students who will have to now deal with the penalties and appeal process are guys like Westchester's Ashanti Cook, who signed with New Mexico, but this week announced to the new coaching staff at New Mexico that he wasn't going to honor his NLI.  Unless New Mexico gives Ashanti a "qualified release" from his NLI (which it thus far has not said it will do, but which we'd fully expect from a guy like Ritchie McKay who certainly understands coaching changes and mobility), Ashanti will have to sit a minimum of one year and possibly two years before he can play again.   Ditto for a guy like Armando Surratt, who signed with Fresno State, but when Tark announced he was retiring, obtained his release from the NLI he had signed committing to attend Fresno State. 

Which brings us to Evan Burns (6'-8" Sr. PF) from Fairfax, who two days ago signed his National Letter of Intent to play at UCLA next season, ending the speculation of where he will play if he enrolls in a college next fall, but certainly not ending the speculation about whether he will qualify for freshman eligibility, or what Evan might do in the event he winds up not qualifying under the NCAA's sliding scale. 

Thus far, all we know from a public point of view is that Evan's transcripts are his own business. Further, we also know that the only people privy to both his test scores and to his transcripts (other than those people he may have shown them to voluntarily) are Evan, his college guidance counselors at Fairfax, his parents, and maybe the UCLA coaches and admissions people.  The reason we hesitate about the latter group (the coaches) is that anyone who knows anything about the University of California admissions process knows that regular admission applicants do not send their transcripts to the UC as a part of the admission process.   GPA's are "self-reported," and the University only receives a transcript after the student has enrolled.  Of course, if a student intentionally misreports, there would be obvious consequences and admission would be withdrawn, but the bottom line is that the admissions system at the UC (including UCLA) depends largely upon an honor system for purposes of reporting GPAs.   It doesn't though for purposes of the "Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse" and eventually transcripts are released when a player graduates along with an official report of a student's test scores. And as most people familiar with recruiting also understand, from a basketball admissions perspective, it's highly unusual for the basketball office to not receive a player's transcript as a part of the recruiting process somewhere along the line.  But in this case, the only thing anyone publicly knows for sure is that the news about Evan Burn's academics is (a) private and confidential, and (b) it is also the subject of widespread and largely unfounded speculation both in newsprint and on the internet, speculation caused by the fact that this information is inherently confidential and private to the student involved, and further because most students choose not to discuss such matters publicly. 

That hasn't, of course, prevented a lot of knowledgeable people from announcing that Evan has achieved a "qualifying" test score (BRO's Tracy Pierson announced the same a few weeks ago), based on information which has come from sources who in most cases are unimpeachable, but it also hasn't stopped others from contradicting these same report in various internet reports, on message boards,  or in newsprint (e.g., Billy Witz wrote a piece in the Daily News the day following Tracy's announcement which seemed strangely to equivocate on the same subject, and yet professed to be based on solid evidence.....).   Where the real truth lies is more or less a mystery at this point.  

Procedurally, even if Evan has achieved a "qualifying" test score, i.e., higher than an 820, that's only half the equation required for him to achieve freshman eligibility under the NCAA standards, which involve a sliding scale (check the link if you're really interested in seeing the actual combination of GPA and SAT scores required).

The bottom line is that while we at SoCalHoops certainly hope Evan Burns qualifies, and we wish him all the best of success because he's a great young man from a wonderful family, there's been enough rumor and speculation to justify at least some concern about whether he will or will not achieve freshman eligiblity.   Personally, we think there's no doubt that he will qualify, and that he will be wearing Bruin Blue and Gold next year with an excellent chance to break into the starting lineup immediately (please, don't ask us whose minutes he'll get, because we sure don't want to go there right now....), but we mention the possibilities (not probabilities) simply so people will have a better understanding of the process, and hopefully with that better understanding, will avoid jumping to conclusions or making sweeping statements which might prove hurtful, or just plain wrong to the recruit and his family.  Again, we certainly don't mean to suggest that there is any probability that Evan won't qualify;  we have no evidence one way or the other because we're not privy to that kind of confidential info. We merely mention the procedural end because those who have assumed that the signing of a National Letter of Intent guarantees anything are simply misinformed.

Anyway, here's the official UCLA press release announcing Evan Burns' signing his National Letter of Intent with UCLA.  Congratulations to the Bruins and to Evan Burns from SoCalHoops:

Local Player Burns Signs Letter With UCLA
Burns is the third incoming freshman who has signed a NLI for men's hoops.

April 17, 2002

Evan Burns, a 6-8, 220-pound forward from Fairfax HS in Los Angeles, has signed a National Letter of Intent to attend UCLA and will be a true freshman this fall on the Bruin men's basketball team, UCLA head coach Steve Lavin announced Wednesday. 

Burns, a versatile scorer with excellent athletic ability, recently has appeared in two national prep All-Star games. On April 11, he played in the Jordan Brand Capital Classic at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C. and on April 4, he was a member of the West squad at the McDonald's HS All-American game at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Burns will be the seventh McDonald's All-American to sign with UCLA during Lavin's six years as the Bruin head coach. McDonald's All-Americans who have attended UCLA during the Lavin era are ' Evan Burns '02; Cedric Bozeman '01; Jason Kapono '99; Dan Gadzuric, JaRon Rush, Ray Young '98 and Baron Davis '97. As a senior this season, Burns averaged 22.7 points and 10.5 rebounds for coach Harvey Kitani at Fairfax HS. In 2002 Burns led Fairfax to the Los Angeles City Finals (Fairfax lost to eventual CA State Champion Westchester). 

Along with his prep All-America acclaim, he was also a third-team Parade All-America selection, Burns this year was nominated for California Mr. Basketball and earned All-State, Los Angeles Times Central City Player of the Year and City Co-Player of the Year (with Westchester's Hassan Adams). Entering his senior year last fall, Burns' preseason honors included ' Street & Smith's third-team All-American and first-team Los Angeles All-Metro, Athlon No. 3 small forward in the U. S., Basketball News' No. 10 Player in the U. S., Hoop Scoop No. 11 Player in the U. S., Lindy's No. 12 Player in the U. S., No. 13 Player in the U. S., The Sporting News' No. 14 Player in the U. S. and All Star Report No. 17 Player in the U. S. 

As a junior in 2000-01, Burns averaged 23.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.1 blocked shots a game. Following his junior campaign, Burns was a two-time All-City honoree and Cal-Hi Sports All-State Underclass selection. 

"Evan is a highly skilled player with the necessary versatility to play both inside and outside at the collegiate level," Lavin said. "Recruiting the best players from Southern California will always be a top priority and critical to our program's success. Evan Burns is another tremendous talent in a long list of Los Angeles players who have chosen to stay at home and attend UCLA." 

Burns is the third incoming UCLA freshman who has signed a NLI to play men's basketball for the Bruins next season. He will be joining Michael Fey (6-11, 245-pound center from Capital HS in Olympia, WA) and Matt McKinney (6-8, 200-pound forward from Santa Ynez, CA HS who will also be on the Bruin men's volleyball team). Also joining the Bruins, at the conclusion of the 2002 collegiate football campaign, will be incoming freshman Marcedes Lewis. Regarded as the No. 1 prep tight end in the U. S. in 2001, Lewis, a 6-6, 240-pounder from Long Beach, CA Poly HS, averaged 19.0 points and 11.0
rebounds in basketball. 

"Our coaches (Bruin assistants Jim Saia, Gerald Madkins and Patrick Sandle) have put together a balanced incoming freshman class," Lavin said. "We work at recruiting as hard as any staff in the country and it's rewarding to see the results with another top class." National prep recruiting expert Clark Francis, founder and editor of Hoop Scoop, also rates Burns as one of the top high school wing players in the U. S. 

"Evan Burns is a tremendous talent," Francis said. "He can shoot the three and he played very well last week at the Jordan Brand Capital Classic in Washington, D. C. He's one of the most talented and athletic wing forwards in the U. S. He's a heck of a talent with a tremendous upside."

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