Mark McLaughlin’s long and winding basketball career that included stops from Texas to Tacoma had finally seemed to come to a terminus at Montlake.
The much-traveled and multi-talented shooting guard said he was done wandering and seemed to be at peace when he signed a national letter of intent to play for the University of Washington earlier this year.
But just days before the Huskies began practicing for their two-week trip to Europe and Africa, McLaughlin decided to leave the program.
“Mark McLaughlin has decided to leave the University of Washington to pursue other opportunities,” head coach Lorenzo Romar said in a statement on Friday morning. “Although he was only here for a short time, we enjoyed working with Mark and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
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McLaughlin was expected to be a major contributor for the Huskies this season, particularly with loss of Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten to the NBA.
Last season at Tacoma Community College, McLaughlin led all of junior college in scoring, averaging 28.4 points per game, and leading the Titans to an NWAAC tournament championship.
In 31 games at TCC, McLaughlin scored 852 points and had a season-high of 41. He shot 51% from the field (294-for-581), including 57-of-152 (38.0%) from 3-point range. He also averaged at team-high 8.1 rebounds along with 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
While McLaughlin certainly has a track record of leaving schools since graduating from Inglemoor in 2009, the news that he left the Husky program stunned TCC head coach Carl Howell.
“I’m as shocked as anyone,” Howell said. “I’m speechless. I really wish I knew more about it. I wish I knew more about it.”
Washington was supposed to be the last in a long line of schools for McLaughlin. He committed to Washington State as a senior, but then signed with Nevada. He was released from his letter of intent when Wolf Pack coach Mark Fox left for Georgia. McLaughlin then attended Baylor in 2009 but grew homesick being away from his son, Jaylen. He transferred to Seattle University and redshirted the 2010 season.
McLaughlin played for Seattle U in 2010-11 and averaged 7.2 points in 17.8 minutes of action in 17 games before leaving after the team.
“Obviously, it hasn’t been the straightest path,” he said after signing with Washington. “But it’s brought me here. I feel this is the right place for me. I’m just happy to be a Husky. It’s like a dream come true.”
Now that dream is over.
McLaughlin’s decision leaves Washington in a tough situation with no new incoming eligible players. McLaughlin was on the only player in the current recruiting class that was eligible to play. University of San Francisco transfer Perris Blackwell and University of Central Florida transfer Gillies Dierickx, both have to sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.
The Huskies do return starting senior point guard Abdul Gaddy and part-time starter C.J. Wilcox to their backcourt and get senior Scott Suggs, who took a medical redshirt last season with a broken foot. Sophomore Hikeem Stewart played sparingly, while touted point guard Andrew Andrews redshirted last season.
“Lorenzo is a great coach,” Howell said. “He’s a good man. I’m sure he’s extremely shocked. I feel bad for them. You are counting on a guy and this happens, I feel for those guys too.”
Howell confirmed that since McLaughlin accepted the UW scholarship and also took a class during the summer session, it would make him ineligible to transfer to another NCAA institution, regardless of classification.
“I’m not sure about an NAIA school,” Howell said.
But really Howell is more concerned about McLaughlin’s immediate future and the circumstances that led to this decision.
I really haven’t talked to him the past couple weeks, which I guess should have been a warning signal,” he said. “I just never saw this coming.”
He’s hoping to talk McLaughlin as soon as possible to find out what is going on.
“I would never turn my back on one of my former players,” Howell said. “I don’t think this has anything to do with basketball. I don’t even want to think about the next step as far as basketball goes. I’m more worried about the next step as a person. I’m looking forward to the chance to talk to him.”