Posted: 12:51 pm Tuesday, April 28th, 2009
By Jason Lieser
The buzz of the day: Chris Dunkley, who has dozens of offers to play wide receiver at major college football programs, left Royal Palm Beach and enrolled at Pahokee.
The news was met with very different reactions at both schools, as expected. To read the full news story, click here.
Blue Devils football coach Blaze Thompson said Dunkley was on campus today and visited with Thompson in his office this morning. Thompson said Dunkley is expected to be in class at Pahokee High tomorrow.
Dunkley said he is going to live with his grandmother in Pahokee. His parents live in Royal Palm Beach.
Thompson immediately shot down any suggestion that Pahokee recruited Dunkley.
“I had heard rumor that he was coming, but I hear rumors about players all the time,” Thompson said. “I don’t concern myself with it. If a player comes, a player comes.
“I did not ask him why he transferred. All I did was tell him it’s not going to be easy and we’re happy he’s here. We’re going to make him work. I explained to him what we’re about.”
Royal Palm Beach football coach Darren Studstill said he does not believe Thompson or Pahokee did anything wrong in this situation and has no ill will toward Thompson. Thompson said he intends to call Studstill today to discuss the transfer.
Studstill, in his second year as the Wildcats’ head coach, said he wishes Dunkley the best at Pahokee, but Studstill is frustrated by what he called a “free agent” market in high school football.
“I don’t agree — and this is not just with Chris — that any kids should go from school to school,” Studstill said. “If I start something, I’m going to finish it.
“I’m kind of upset with the whole process. It’s too easy for kids to go here and there. Unless you’re going to the school of the arts, a kid should finish where he starts. I just don’t agree with all this switching schools when guys reach a certain point in their career.”
Dunkley started on the varsity football team each of the past three seasons. Studstill said he had been under the impression Dunkley would practice with Royal Palm Beach when the Wildcats begin official spring sessions Friday and remain with the team for the 2009 season.
Regarding the timing of his decision, Dunkley said he thought if he played spring football for the Wildcats, he would not be allowed to play at another school this fall.
Sonny Hester, the associate executive director of the Florida High School Athletic Association, said playing spring football at one school does not automatically preclude a student from playing for another school in fall. The only way spring football would factor into fall eligibility is if there is a recruiting violation or other rules are broken.
As far as Dunkley’s former football teammates, Studstill said several students asked about the situation today, but mainly, “the players just want to know when practice is.”
This transfer has been rumored for months, but two weeks ago Dunkley said there was no way his parents were going to let him go to Pahokee. He did not elaborate on what has changed since he said that, and cited “personal reasons” for switching schools.
Dunkley leaves Royal Palm Beach two days before the school is scheduled to participate in the state regional track meet. The Wildcats will vacate his slot in the triple jump and the 200 meters, and use alternate runners for his two relay races.
“That’s a really tough thing that he did,” Royal Palm Beach athletic director Steven Kaufmann said. “I feel bad for Coach Louvier and the track team. They’ve all worked really hard together.”
Dunkley was at track practice yesterday — when a football recruiter from LSU stopped by Royal Palm Beach to see him — but did not tell coach Donald Louvier he was leaving the school.
“I was a little stunned,” Louvier said of today’s news. “Last year I heard a rumor and he didn’t leave, so I figured this would be the same and he’d be back.”
Louvier said some of his track athletes, many of whom also play football, said Dunkley went to a football combine recently and was wearing a Pahokee Blue Devils hat. When Louvier asked Dunkley about it, he told Louvier he was staying at Royal Palm Beach.
Kaufmann said remaining at Royal Palm Beach would not have hindered Dunkley in any way during his senior year.
“This is a bad thing for high school sports that kids can leave a school whenever they want,” Kaufmann said. “Chris was doing great at Royal Palm and I think he would have done just great staying at Royal Palm.
“To me, it’s a sad thing. He starts as a freshman, plays three years and then leaves his school. I’m not sure if that’s a great thing.”
Fellow wide receiver Fred Pickett, another major college recruit, transferred from Glades Central to Pahokee earlier this season.
Dunkley joins a loaded Pahokee team that could surge into upper echelon of the national rankings now that he is on board. Blue Devils quarterback De’Joshua Johnson, who is also a highly recruited wide receiver, believes this makes his team the best in the country.
“It’s a dream come true,” Johnson said. “I’ve always wanted to play with him. I can depend on Dunk to get open. He has an ability to go after the ball and get in and out of his routes.”
Johnson and Dunkley have been friends for a few years and visited recently Alabama’s campus together.
Dunkley is the third major college prospect in this area to change schools. The other is offensive lineman Tony Kibler, who went from Okeechobee to Glades Day.