Xenia senior Samari Curtis (with ball), shown here at the Premier Health Flyin’ to the Hoop, scored a school-record 52 points against visiting Bellefontaine on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

A Bearcat no more, Xenia’s Mr. Basketball aims elsewhere

Samari Curtis, Xenia High School’s reigning Ohio Mr. Basketball, announced via Twitter on Thursday night he has reopened his recruitment after the University of Cincinnati granted his release from a national letter of intent.

The reversal is less than three weeks after UC named former Northern Kentucky coach John Brannen to succeed longtime Bearcats coach Mick Cronin. The coaching position opened when Cronin bolted the Bearcats after 13 seasons to succeed Steve Alford as UCLA’s coach.

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“After talks with my family i want to announce the national letter of intent committee has granted my release and I will be re-opening my recruitment,” Curtis tweeted.

The announcement quickly spread nationally and fueled speculation where the 6-foot-4 shooter could be headed. Xenia coach Kent Anderson said Curtis had been contacted by at least seven programs later Thursday night and didn’t rule out his resigning with UC.

“The sooner he gets this behind him, he’ll be at peace,” Anderson said. “I think UC is still in the mix, he’s just exploring everything at this point.”

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Efforts to reach Curtis were unsuccessful.

It’s the second time Curtis decommitted. Both times involved head coaches who landed elsewhere and both involved Cincinnati teams.

Curtis initially verbally committed to Xavier and then-Musketeers head coach Chris Mack. After Mack landed the job at Louisville, Xavier promoted Travis Steele to head coach. Curtis soon decommitted to Xavier, then surprisingly sided with crosstown rival UC.

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UC, 28-7 last season, currently has no incoming recruits for the Class of 2019.

Curtis reset most of Xenia’s all-time single season and career scoring records. As a senior he averaged 34.4 points and led the Greater Western Ohio Conference in scoring for the third straight season. He scored 816 points last season and 2,109 during four years as a Buccaneers starter. His 514 career free throws ranks No. 13 in all-time Ohio history.

Seniors Andre Gordon of Sidney, Trotwood-Madison’s Amari Davis, RaHeim Moss of Springfield and Curtis were the area’s top recruits heading into their senior seasons. Gordon recently decommitted to Virginia Tech and instead signed with Texas A&M, where former Tech coach Buzz Williams landed last month. Ironically, Curtis tweeted separately Thursday night he had received an offer from Virginia Tech.

Davis signed with Wisconsin-Green Bay and Moss opted for a prep school season at Spire Academy in Geneva, Ohio. 

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According to the recruiting site 247sports.com, at least 50 nationally ranked boys basketball players are unsigned after decommitting, including Curtis. The NCAA allows incoming recruits the option of signing with another program should there be a coaching change. Schools also can grant a release without a coaching coach, as Duke did with coveted recruit Boogie Ellis of San Diego this week.

Last year Ohio State recruits Justin Ahrens (Versailles), Darius Bazley (Princeton), Dane Goodwin (Upper Arlington) and Torrence Watson (St. Louis) all decommitted after then-coach Thad Matta resigned. Ahrens signed and played with OSU last season. Bazley skipped college for the NBA G League. Goodwin signed with Notre Dame and Watson signed with Missouri.

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“The biggest thing I told him is when the coaching change happened, there was a lot of speculation,” Anderson said of Curtis. “My advice was to take your time. He’s done that and thought some things through. We’re still proud of his efforts and accomplishments and we wish him well wherever he lands.”

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