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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tigers freshman Simpkins to leave basketball program

Tigers freshman Simpkins to leave basketball program
By Dan Wolken, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Matt Simpkins’ basketball career at the University of Memphis is over.

Simpkins, a 6-9 forward who was suspended in February for numerous off-court issues, left the program today and will transfer to another school.

Coach Josh Pastner said Simpkins’ departure was a mutual decision.

“We had been talking for the last few days, and Matt has felt it’s best for him to look elsewhere,” Pastner said. “Like I told Matt and his mom, we’re going to do everything we can to help assist him and make sure he finds the best program that’s right for him with the support and everything else you’re looking for athletically, academically and socially.”

Simpkins came to Memphis last fall with some potential athletically – he was the 80th-ranked prospect nationally in the class of 2008, according to Rivals.com – but a history of behavioral and academic problems. Simpkins, who grew up in Oakland, Calif., went to seven different high schools and prep schools before finding his way to Memphis.

Because of questions about his transcript, the NCAA did not declare him eligible to play until mid-December, and Simpkins made his debut in the Tigers’ seventh game of the season, against Georgetown.

Simpkins appeared in 14 games, averaging 5.8 minutes and 1.4 points. He did not play in his final game with the team, a Feb. 4 victory at SMU. Two days later, as the Tigers were set to leave Dallas for Spokane, Wash., and a game against Gonzaga, Simpkins was sent back to Memphis and suspended by former coach John Calipari for violating team rules.

According to multiple sources, Simpkins’ infractions included breaking curfew, missing classes, showing up late to team functions and general attitude issues.

Simpkins, according to those sources, was caught going out after curfew on the evening before a Jan. 30 game against Houston and did not play the next day. Simpkins was caught violating curfew again the next week in Dallas, prompting the suspension.

Calipari did not allow Simpkins to be around the team for the rest of the season, saying he was under a strict contract if he wanted to get back in the program. Pastner said he met with Simpkins several times after the coaching change.

“It was a mutual thing, very positive, and we wish him nothing but the best,” Pastner said.

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