Briefs: Seantrel Henderson released from LOI

John Hageman

Henderson released from USC Letter of Intent In a much-anticipated decision, the University of Southern California released former Cretin-Derham Hall offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson âÄî MinnesotaâÄôs top recruit in the class of 2010 âÄî from his National Letter of Intent on Tuesday. Henderson, who received scholarship offers from many of the nationâÄôs top programs as well as the Gophers, committed to USC in February and signed his LOI in March. However, after the NCAA imposed heavy sanctions on the Trojans that included a two-year ban from bowl games, Henderson began to waver on his commitment. He didnâÄôt report for summer school with the teamâÄôs other incoming freshmen, instead staying in Minnesota and playing basketball with the Howard Pulley Pro City Summer League, which prompted USC head coach and Bloomington native Lane Kiffin and several other coaches to fly to Minneapolis and re-recruit him. It had not been clear in the weeks of speculation whether the Trojans would grant Henderson a release from his LOI. âÄúAs of 1:30 p.m. today, we are releasing Seantrel Henderson out of his national letter of intent with zero penalties and no restrictions,âÄù Kiffin said in a release. âÄúSeantrel has been great through the whole process, and we wish him the best of luck with his decision.âÄù Henderson could still end up with USC but is free to explore his options. The Pioneer Press reported that Henderson visited Miami on Saturday, and while the Gophers and any number of teams are now again in the running, most reports say he is leaning toward either the Hurricanes or Ohio State. – Trevor Born Two former Gophers sign NHL contracts Former Gophers hockey player Paul Martin signed a five-year, $25 million free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, first reported Thursday by ESPN.com . Martin attended Elk River High School and helped Minnesota to consecutive NCAA Championships in 2002 and 2003 . Martin was drafted in the second round of the 2000 NHL entry draft by the New Jersey Devils and left to play for the team after his junior season at Minnesota. Martin was thought by many to be one of the top two-way defensemen in this yearâÄôs free agency class. Another former Gopher, Jordan Leopold, agreed to a three-year, $9 million contract with the Buffalo Sabres. Leopold played for the Gophers from 1998 to 2002, winning an NCAA title and the Hobey Baker Award as the best college hockey player in the country his senior season. Leopold was selected in the second round of the 1999 draft by Anaheim. Westbrook, Johnson to try out for Wolves summer team Former Gophers basketball players Damian Johnson and Lawrence Westbrook will try out for the Minnesota Timberwolves summer league team Thursday through Saturday. The team will leave for Las Vegas on Sunday. According to team spokesperson Mark Rosenberg, the two will compete with Southern Indiana alum Jamar Smith for the final two spots. The two former Gophers worked out with the Wolves before the NBA draft in mid-June but went undrafted. The Timberwolves first summer league game will be Monday in Las Vegas against the San Antonio Spurs. Another commit for football team Samuel Oyenuga, a cornerback from Texas, has verbally committed to join the Gophers football team as part of the class of 2011 . At six feet tall and 165 pounds, Oyenuga averaged 5.4 tackles per game along with one interception in his junior season for Rowlett High School. Oyenuga is the sixth recruit to commit to the Gophers for the 2011 season . Minnesota featured on Big Ten Network Minnesota athletics is being featured on the Big Ten Network all week, with classic Gophers games every night until Friday. Included in the classic matchups will be MinnesotaâÄôs one-point victory over Georgetown to win the NIT in 1993, Blake HoffarberâÄôs buzzer-beater to beat Indiana in the 2008 Big Ten tournament and the GophersâÄô last victory at Memorial Stadium in 1981. APR will be released for individual coaches The NCAA is set to release a database of new academic progress rate figures for individual coaches in the near future, according to the Associated Press. Academic progress rates, or APR, are compiled using a formula based on how long a programâÄôs athletes stay academically eligible. A score of 1,000 in APR is perfect, and if a program falls below 925, it can face conditional scholarship losses. A score below 900 means even harsher penalties. The new database for coaches wonâÄôt be used to incur penalties, but for informational purposes for prospective recruits and employers. Six sports âÄîfootball, menâÄôs and womenâÄôs basketball, baseball and menâÄôs and womenâÄôs track and field âÄî will be part of the first wave of data. The APR system has garnered much criticism since it was introduced in 2005 , and some coaches donâÄôt think the new database is entirely fair. “Coaches should be held accountable, but we’re not the only one responsible,” North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams told the Associated Press. “Kids have to do the work. Your academic support system has to help them as much as it possibly can.âÄù After its APR score dipped from 927 to 887 in 2007-2008, the Minnesota football team improved its APR score by 81 points to 968 in 2008-2009. The team lost three scholarships in 2007-2008 because its multi-year APR score was 915, below the 925 benchmark.