It looks like the Jamal Coombs-McDaniel era is over. UConn released a statement saying the UConn sophomore forward has been granted permission to speak to other schools and will be transferring from the University.
Coombs-McDaniel is in the process of completing the spring academic semester at UConn.
"Jamal and I met recently and, although he loves the program, he would like more playing time," coach Jim Calhoun said in the statement. "He and I both agree that he may have more opportunity for that playing time in another program. He was a very important part of our national championship this season and I know is capable of great success in the future. We wish Jamal the best of luck athletically and academically where ever he decides to continue his college career."
Coombs-McDaniel was arrested April 21 after he and two others were found in possession of 5.6 grams of marijuana, a marijuana grinder and a package of cigars that are used to smoke marijuana, according to UConn police. He was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance. Bail was set at $500 and Coombs-McDaniel, 21, of Dorchester, Mass., appeared in Superior Court in Rockville on Thursday and had his case continued to May 19. He was one of 11 people arrested during the first night of Spring Weekend.
According to the arrest report, UConn police responded to 18 Jonathan Way in Storrs to investigate a narcotics complaint. The two other individuals were identified as Shakwaan Ishmale Simpkins, 19, and Stanley Darnel Winn, 19, both of 39 Dunlap St., Boston.
Coombs-McDaniel, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, appeared in all 41 games and averaged 5.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 16.6 minutes for the national champion Huskies. He was scoreless in three of the final four games, with two points in a national semifinal against Kentucky, and his playing time decreased down the stretch due in part to increasing soreness in his left knee.
Coombs-McDaniel had surgery April 7 to repair ligament damage in that knee and is scheduled to undergo two months of rehabilitation, with the goal of being fully cleared to play by early June.
At the Maui Invitational in November, Coombs-McDaniel and Calhoun had a sideline run-in when Coombs-McDaniel reacted poorly to being pulled from a semifinal game against Michigan State. The next day, Calhoun and Coombs-McDaniel met before the championship against Kentucky. Calhoun basically told Coombs-McDaniel that he understood his frustration because he's an emotional guy, too, but if something like that ever happened again there would be a price to pay.
About a month later, Coombs-McDaniel was scoreless in 10 minutes in a Big East-opening loss at Pittsburgh. After the game, he posted on Facebook that he should have more closely examined his college choices before attending UConn. He soon deleted the posting, issued an apology, said he learned a valuable lesson and insisted he was happy at UConn.
Eventually, Calhoun placed more trust in Coombs-McDaniel on the court and was rewarded. Coombs-McDaniel posted career highs of 25 points and eight rebounds in a 75-57 victory over Providence Feb. 13. Three days later, he had 23 points and six rebounds in a 78-70 victory over Georgetown. And in a 71-58 loss at Louisville two days after that, he had 16 points and six rebounds.
Coombs-McDaniel reached double figures in scoring in just three of the final 15 games, but his unexpected midseason burst helped keep defenses honest down the stretch, and he seemed to fit in well with an increasingly effective second tier in support of Kemba Walker. For instance, before Walker made his buzzer-beating jump shot to defeat Pittsburgh in the Big East tournament quarterfinals, Coombs-McDaniel grabbed an offensive rebound to set up the possession and then played decoy on the wing as Walker drove on Pittsburgh's Gary McGhee.
"He's one of those guys that's a junkyard dog in a sense he scores in different ways," Calhoun said at the Final Four. "You don't need a lot of those shots to go in, you need the threat of a guy who can make those shots [and] that makes a big difference."
Coombs-McDaniel was part of a recruiting package that included longtime friend Alex Oriakhi, a sophomore forward/center at UConn. Friends since childhood, Coombs-McDaniel and Oriakhi, from Lowell, Mass., played AAU ball and attended several high schools together. They made headlines by making oral commitments to UConn in the summer of 2006, after their freshman year of high school.
"Quite frankly, Jamal was the throw-in," Calhoun said at the Final Four. "When you saw Alex, even as a young guy, great student and great kid - Jamal was a good student and a good kid, too - but Alex seemed to be the limelight guy. He was the one who was the McDonald's All-American, a big, strong physical kid. They wanted to go to school together. I remember taking a trip early in his senior year just to reassure him that we really wanted him. We had to reassure him that he was an important part of our recruiting process."