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Choi to leave Maryland, return to South Korea

Maryland sophomore forward Jin Soo Choi will leave Maryland and return to his native South Korea, according to a source close to the player. Choi, the first Korean player to receive a Division I scholarship, decided to transfer after it became clear the language barrier (Choi's first language is Korean) would be too great to overcome. Maryland confirmed Choi's decision in a press release issued Tuesday afternoon.

"It was hard for him to adjust to anything because [Choi's] English proficiency was so poor," said the source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic.

Choi also was dealing with academic issues stemming from a class he failed during the fall semester. The grade was under review, and it was possible that if Choi stayed at Maryland he would have been deemed ineligible for the coming semester, which begins Jan. 25.

The source said Choi's parents have filed a petition to gain Choi entry into this season's Korean Basketball League draft, but the petition is unlikely to be granted as the draft's deadline was Dec. 3. If his petition is denied, Choi will attempt to transfer to a Korean university, the source said.

"After speaking with my family, we decided it would be best to continue my basketball career in Korea," Choi said in a statement released by the school. "I want to thank the coaches and especially Coach Williams for giving me an opportunity to play basketball at a high level."

On the court, Choi's intermediate English proficiency made fully comprehending the instructions of the coaching staff and teammates difficult, the source said. According to the source, Choi grew increasingly frustrated because he felt his performance in practice warranted more playing time in games.

Choi practiced with the team while the situation remained unresolved, and he played four minutes during Sunday’s 34-point win at UNC Greensboro. He played in nine games this season, averaging 0.8 points and 1.1 rebounds in 4.9 minutes per contest.

"We wish Jin Soo well in whatever he decides to pursue," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said in a statement released by the school. "We appreciate the contributions he's made to our basketball program in the past two seasons."

In the classroom, Choi had issues with two courses he took during the fall semester, according to the source. He failed one class, and he did not pass a placement exam he took at the conclusion of a class he took through the University of Maryland English Institute, a program for students for whom English is a second language. The placement exam is meant to measure students’ progress in their English proficiency.

Although the UMEI class had no bearing on his athletic eligibility, the failed class could have kept him from competing in any games after Jan. 25. The source said that Choi planned to transfer regardless of how the academic issue turned out.

Earlier today, the Korean Times translated an interview Choi conducted in Korean with a Korean magazine following the Dec. 30 loss to William & Mary.

Choi’s academic troubles began during his freshman year, when he was initially declared ineligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse before being cleared prior to the start of the season. In late January, Choi was declared academically ineligible after failing one of the classes he took through the UMEI during his first semester on campus. He was cleared to play three days later after Maryland conducted an internal review of the decision.

Choi played in 21 games last season, averaging 1.6 points, 1.1 rebounds and 6.5 minutes per game. Though initially expected to provide the Terrapins a long-range scoring threat, Choi shot 21.7 percent (5 for 23) from beyond the arc during his Maryland career.

By Steve Yanda  |  January 5, 2010; 1:23 PM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Not sure if this is good news or bad news. Would have liked to see him succeed. Wonder whether other Koreans on campus reached out to him to help him integrate a bit. Does open another scholarship up for next year.

Posted by: HughGRection | January 5, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I liked Choi, but I don't think it's going to hurt the team much to see him go. It might even help with the extra scholarship. If he weren't the first Korean to get a Div I scholarship, I don't know if I'd have been rooting for him as much.

Posted by: acebojangles | January 5, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm certainly surprised by this move. Choi was not getting a lot of minutes, but hadno idea his English proficiency was causing such difficulties on and off the court.

The will obviously free up minutes for Cliff Tucker, and open up a scholarship for next season, so as it stands right now, it's not a huge loss. Hopefully Choi will find success in the future.

Posted by: Russtinator | January 5, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

"It is really hard to do both ― play basketball and study," Choi told Korean basketball magazine Jump Ball.

"Studying causes me a lot of stress. I only want to play basketball, I don't want to have to think about studying," added Choi.

Posted by: artiechin | January 5, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

The real question is what will the Terp's do recruiting wise since this opens up a scholarship?

Posted by: lavar609 | January 5, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

The real question is why is Maryland's recruiting a perpetual disaster?

Posted by: restonhoops | January 5, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Maryland's recruiting has been a disaster ever since Dickerson, Pastos, et al. left. Gary has all the charisma of paint and he needed guys like Dickerson to convince top recruits to come to Maryland. Until he brings in top recruiters, Maryland talent good enough to compete with the top of the ACC.

As for Choi, it's not a big loss because he is a marginal talent. An unathletic tweener who turned out to have a marginal shot. If he indeed didn't understand English well enough to play basketball, that's pathetic. He played for 4 years at South Kent. That means he lived in this country for 5.5 years. I know lots of Koreans and unless you're not trying and only speaking Korean, you definitely can learn English well enough to go to class, understand a coach, etc. Most Koreans pick up the language well enough after 1 year to be able to speak conversationally.

Posted by: bselig | January 5, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

And yes, of course the Koreans and Korean-Americans at Maryland embraced him. That was probably part of his problems. If he couldn't understand English after 5.5 years, he was obviously just hanging out with native Koreans and speaking Korean only.

Posted by: bselig | January 5, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I wonder, they couldn't get a Korean student manager/trainer/aid to help at practices? Perhaps in the future for foreign students such measures would help.

Posted by: anotherFresefan | January 5, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

WOW! I thought our comment boards were rough. The one attached to the Korean Times story really rips him.

Choi was at best a marginal talent and him leaving won't hurt in the short or long term. Fortunately, his leaving does open up a scholarship. We can only hope that "St. Gary" does something with it.

Posted by: tradervic1313 | January 5, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

WOW! I thought our comment boards were rough. The one attached to the Korean Times story really rips him.

Choi was at best a marginal talent and him leaving won't hurt in the short or long term. Fortunately, his leaving does open up a scholarship. We can only hope that "St. Gary" does something with it.

Posted by: tradervic1313 | January 5, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

The real question is why is Maryland's recruiting a perpetual disaster?

Posted by: restonhoops | January 5, 2010 4:04 PM

Yet another one of Gary-The-God's recruits going down in flames......

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | January 5, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Let's be clear about this--Jin Soo Choi was given a basketball scholarship to the University of Maryland because he was to be the first Korean-born player in Division I history. This was obvious from the get go, not just because of his performance on the basketball court at Maryland or in classroom, but also because of the comments our athletic department made regarding his addition to the school. It's obvious when you have a head of an athletic department constantly bragging about his Korean status and making public comments about taking race into consideration, such as: "'It’s part of our fabric,' Yow said of affirmative hiring." ( It's obvious when in other instances, the school has also astonishingly gloated about taking race into consideration, such as: "Only because Franklin is a 'qualified minority,' according to Yow, did College Park administrators willingly agree to his preemptive promotion.

When you give someone an artificial boost based on their skin color you are often setting them up for failure. Just as countless other beneficiaries of racial preferences in admissions flunk out at a higher rate than those not given preference, take longer to graduate, and do more poorly in school--so too did Choi at MD. And just like so many others who have benefited from these preferences would have had better success at schools were they were better prepared to compete academically, in all likelihood so too would Choi have done better at a school that more closely matched his academic and athletic preparation.

There is strong evidence that this is indeed the case, when you look at states like California where race and ethnicity were banned in admissions by voters back in 1996's Proposition 209. Since then, minority enrollment is not only up statewide, but the grades and graduation rates are significantly improved across the board at state schools. The reason is simple, kids are no longer being admitted to schools in which they aren't academically prepared. Instead, they are going to less challenging schools and not surprisingly, their grades, test scores, and graduation rates are vastly improved since the proposition went into effect.

to be continued...

Posted by: Barno1 | January 6, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse


So, the biggest reason to fight against racial and ethnic preferences, aka affirmative action, is not because it is "reverse discrimination", not because it is unfair, divisive, demeaning, etc...though each of those may be a legitimate reason. No, the number one reason to fight against racial and ethnic preferences is because they often hurt the very people they are intended to help.

I have no doubt that had Choi not been admitted to UMD, he'd have done just fine at a school with less academic and athletic demands. The lesson to be learned from this is simple: we should treat every member of our society the same regardless of skin color, gender, religion, or national origin. It is for everyone's benefit.

It's long past the time that the political correct powers that be at the University of Maryland understood this.

Posted by: Barno1 | January 6, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

That's funny Barno you mention treating everyone the same, when you routinely resort to childish namecalling of others on here.

Treating everyone the same? You should give it a try before you try to lecture others.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | January 6, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Great points Barno. You know those libs in the uMd admin just loved being able to say they had the "first" so and so of a particular race doing something. I'm in complete agreement on treating all according to their merit and not race. Best wishes to Choi however, hope he can find a place where he is better equipped to succeed.

And as for you Poopy, no one here enjoys your presence, in case you haven't noticed.

Posted by: section221001 | January 6, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Ah yes, the 'ol "it's the liberals" fault. How we never tire of hearing Sean Hannity and Glen Beck's talking points.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | January 7, 2010 1:47 AM | Report abuse

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