High school coach explains why Landers Nolley changed mind quickly after UGA commitment

Landers Nolley - Langston Hughes
The Langston Hughes High School team celebrates the 2016-17 state title at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens

ATHENS – It was a heralded basketball commitment for Georgia, and it lasted all of 18 hours.

Saturday night, Landers Nolley revealed on Twitter that he would stay home to play for the Bulldogs, giving Mark Fox and his program a big recruiting win. By the next afternoon, Nolley was back on social media, announcing his de-commitment from Georgia “after talking and discussing my future with my parents.”

So what happened?

Rory Welsh is the head coach at Langston Hughes High School in suburban Atlanta, where the 6-foot-4 Nolley helped lead the team to a state title last spring. In an interview Tuesday morning, Welsh said Nolley made an “emotional decision” coming off his visit to Athens last weekend and rushed an announcement based on a preset timetable.

“He needed to let that visit marinate a little bit and sink in, give it some time to evaluate,” Welsh said. “But he kind of just jumped the gun.”

Nolley, his family and Welsh were due to sit down Tuesday afternoon to discuss a plan going forward. No immediate announcement is planned, Welsh said.

Georgia and Virginia Tech were Nolley’s two finalists, according to an NCAA tournament-style bracket he posted over the last few weeks. Illinois, where he and his family lived his sophomore season, was also in his Final Four.

Originally, Nolley was going to wait until the end of October to make a commitment. Welsh said he had been encouraging him to wait even longer, closer to the early signing period, Nov. 8-15.

“Because I knew he was kind of indecisive in terms of where he was narrowing down his final schools,” Welsh said. “He kind of got caught up in the hype a little bit with the deadline he set for himself. And he also had just come off of the visit to Georgia.”

The looming FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball is also a factor, Welsh added. That could push a decision until the spring to give it time to shake out.

Assistant coaches at Auburn, Arizona, Oklahoma State and Southern California so far have been charged as part of the case. Louisville coach Rick Pitino is in the midst of being fired by the university, and the impact of the federal investigation could end up reaching beyond those schools.

“Not to say that any of the schools that are recruiting him are involved in any level,” Welsh said. “But we just don’t know. There’s uncertainty there. That’s a little bit of a part of it too.”

Fox, speaking a few hours after the FBI charges were announced, said he was “not surprised” and that he knew his program operated “in an honorable way.” (ESPN college basketball analyst Jeff Goodman, speaking earlier this year, said Fox is regarded as one of the coaches who does thing the right way.)

Georgia is still very much in the mix for Nolley, according to Welsh, who praised how Fox and assistant coach Jonas Hayes have handled the situation.

“Nothing against Georgia. They’ve done an excellent job recruiting him. Coach Fox, coach Hayes, they’ve been professional all the way,” Welsh said. “Even through this issue. That’s been very, very encouraging.”

Nolley is ranked No. 96 in the 2018 class, per the 247Sports composite. While some would point to the events of the weekend as a point of concern, Welsh said Georgia and other schools need not worry about Nolley’s character.

“He’s a confident kid in what he can do, and what he’s done up to this point,” Welsh said, pointing to Nolley’s two state titles. “But he’s a great kid. He’s the type of kid who comes in and works, does what he’s told, very coachable. … His family raised him right.”

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