LSU’s basketball program absorbed another blow Monday when sophomore Matt Derenbecker withdrew from school.
In a statement issued by the media relations department, the reason given for Derenbecker’s exit was personal reasons.
“After some discussion with my family and the coaching staff, I have decided to take some time away from basketball to address some personal matters,” Derenbecker said in the statement. “In doing so, I will withdraw from LSU immediately. I wish nothing but the best for my teammates and coaches as they move forward in continuing to rebuild the program.”
Derenbecker’s father, John Derenbecker, said his son would not speak to the media for a few days while the family decides where he will transfer.
John Derenbecker also refuted rumblings that his son had any serious health problems or that he had been asked by fourth-year coach Trent Johnson to leave.
“It’s about us getting Matt in a position where he can focus better and perform better as a complete student-athlete,” said John Derenbecker, a Vanderbilt graduate. “His academic performance didn't meet our personal standards even though he received a lot of tutoring and other resources at LSU. Getting away from playing competitive basketball might help out.
“There are no health issues. It is strictly a balancing of priorities and demands of being a college student athlete.”
The older Derenbecker was emphatic that Johnson did not run his son off.
Matt Derenbecker's struggles academically led to him requesting a release from LSU.
“No he was not asked to leave,” John Derenbecker said. “He’s eligible. It’s not a matter of him not being able to play.
“Trent actually tried to convince Matt to stay and told him he would do whatever was necessary to help him stay at LSU. But when we discussed as a family and then with him and told him what we felt as a family and what we thought was in Matt’s best interest, he understood and said he’d be there to help Matt in any way he can.”
As a freshman last season, the 6-foot-7 Derenbecker averaged 6.5 points in 32 games, a number that increased to 8.3 points in SEC games when he started 15 of the 16 contests.
Derenbecker showed 3-point range at times last season, but also struggled with the pace at the college level. Still, he was projected as a starter this season at a wing position as the Tigers try to bounce back from consecutive last-place finishes in the SEC West Division.
His father said his decision to leave was not based on Matt Derenbecker being afraid of the competition for playing time he might face wih the arrival of freshmen Johnny O’Bryant, John Isaac and Anthony Hickey.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but Matt’s performance last season indicates to the contrary,” John Derenbecker said. “While he certainly has a lot of room for individual improvement, I don’t think that there’s a freshman in the country who doesn’t. He felt very comfortable playing at that level of basketball.”
But not comfortable as a student, which his father said was baffling because Matt Derenbecker has always been a solid student. He arrived at LSU with several hours of college credit and was heavily recruited by Stanford, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Tulane – all schools with tougher acceptance standards than LSU.
“There was some type of disconnect academically that he needs help with and that’s the reason he’s withdrawing,” John Derenbecker said.
Added Johnson in a release issued by the LSU media relations office, “Matt is going through a tough time right now. Playing basketball is not important. We wish him the best as he moves forward.”
John Derenbecker said now that his son has received a release from LSU, they will look at what options are out there – although they do not want to go through a full-fledged recruiting process again.
Tulane is a strong possibility, John Derenbecker said, in large part because of its location and academic standards.
The Green Wave will play their first season under Ed Conroy this winter. The Tulane roster currently includes two seniors and Conroy fortified the team with five freshmen after he was hired.
“I think Tulane would be a great option because it would allow us to be close to him and let him have his family there to help out and also a chance for him to play major college basketball,” John Derenbecker said. “We will certainly check out the situation there to see what might be available.”
Unless Matt Derenbecker winds up at a Division II program or lower, he will have to sit out the 2011-12 season per NCAA rules.
“That’s going to be one of the sacrifices he’s going to have to make,” John Derenbecker said. “He likes to compete hard in practice and he’ll have to take care of his competitive urge that way.
“He really appreciated what the LSU coaches were able to do with Justin Hamilton this year and I think he feels like going through that would be something that would really help become a better player.”
Losing Derenbecker comes on the heels of senior Garrett Green transferring to San Diego State this month for his final season and guard Aaron Dotson leaving when the school year ended to attend Utah. Forward Dennis Harris was kicked off the team after the first semester for a series of off-court mishaps, transferred to Arkansas State to play for former LSU coach John Brady and has since moved on to Campbellsville University, an NAIA school in Kentucky.
Without those four players, the Tigers’ roster is down to 11 scholarship players for the 2011-12 season.
In a stellar prep career at both Ponchatoula High and Country Day of Metairie Park, Derenbecker was a three-team All-State Class 1A player. He was twice named the Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year and as a senior he averaged 25.5 points and 9.9 rebounds a game.
Scout.com rated Derenbecker as a four-star recruit.