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Jonesboro’s Austin Donaldson released from LOI with Chattanooga, re-opens recruitment

Two-time state champ Austin Donaldson said he's anxious to see how his recruitment pans out a second time around. (File Photo)

Two-time state champ Austin Donaldson said he’s anxious to see how his recruitment pans out a second time around. (File Photo)

By Gabriel Stovall

JONESBORO, Ga. — Good news for college coaches and recruiters who missed out on the Austin Donaldson sweepstakes.

The all-state point guard from back-to-back Class AAAA champion Jonesboro is back on the market again, thanks to the departure of Chattanooga’s Will Wade who was tabbed to two weeks ago to replace Shaka Smart at VCU.

Smart left VCU to take the head job at Texas, and it all left Donaldson with a whole new set of options as it relates to his college basketball career. Donaldson was officially released from his letter of intent to Chattanooga Tuesday afternoon.

The Mocs called up Matt McCall, an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida to replace Wade, and Donaldson said he’s gotten the chance already to start getting to know McCall through a meeting with himself and Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman last week.

The 6-foot-3 senior spoke highly of the new Chattanooga staff, but he said he still wants free himself to see what other options may be out there for him.

“It’s just another chance for my recruitment to happen,” Donaldson said. “(Coach McCall) didn’t recruit me like the other schools had, so I want to just open things back up and give everybody the same opportunity to recruit me that Coach Wade had.”

Donaldson, who averaged 8.9 points and 3.5 assists per game this past season for the nation’s No. 9 high school team, admitted he was little taken back when he discovered the news of Wade’s departure via social media.

“When I saw it on Twitter, I mean, I guess I was disappointed,” Donaldson said. “They didn’t really tell me before I saw it, but (Chattanooga coaches) still reached out to me. They didn’t know I’d already saw it on Twitter. It’s not so much disappointment, but I just believe everything happens for a reason. It’s more like I’m sad that all my coaching staff just up and left like that. They offered me for VCU, but I just still wanted to get the recruiting process going again.”

Donaldson said schools such as Georgia Tech, Georgia and Georgia State have already contacted Maehlman to declare their interest. When Donaldson originally committed and signed with Chattanooga last November, he had narrowed his choices down to the Mocs and Troy.

But now, after piloting a nationally ranked high school team and a two-time state champion, Donaldson’s stock has risen considerably.

And with more at stake, Donaldson said he’s going to approach round two of his recruitment process with more scrutiny.

“This time around, I’m going to ask more questions and just watch things more closely,” Donaldson said. “As far as my playing style and me athletically, I’ve started working out more. Working on reading better off pick and rolls. Getting my shots better, and just the simple things that impact a game that I know colleges will be looking for.”

He said he doesn’t have a real time table set to make a decision, and although Chattanooga is still one the table, Donaldson said that “there’s really not a percentage or anything I can put on it” to say he’ll re-sign with the new staff.

In fact, Donaldson, who will work out in front of coaches and recruiters Wednesday afternoon, said he’s already got a perfect scenario mapped out as to how he’d like things to go.

“I’ve got a school in mind right now that hopefully, if things work out right, I would like to go and help out their program,” he said. “But I’m just going to keep that to myself just for now. Maybe save it and make it a big surprise later if it all works out.”

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