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Reggie Witherspoon might have recruiting rope marks from his hands being tied so often.

He got a late start for this season when the University at Buffalo failed to make him the permanent basketball coach until March.

And now he must deal with constraints for next season, placed by UB in response to alleged infractions made while predecessor Tim Cohane was in charge.

But Witherspoon won't feel nearly as hamstrung if he gets an autograph from Turner Battle.

Battle, a 6-foot-2 senior point guard, has made a non-binding verbal commitment to UB for 2001-02. He won't become an official recruit until he signs his national letter of intent. The signing period begins Nov. 15.

"I'm not looking anywhere else," Battle said from his home in Kernersville, N.C. "This is the best opportunity for me academically and athletically."

Battle averaged 17 points, five rebounds and five assists at East Forsyth High as a junior. He claims to have received offers from Delaware, North Carolina A&T and Tulane.

Respected basketball recruiting expert Bob Gibbons, who publishes the All Star Sports Report, considers Battle one of the top 100 players in the nation and among the top 30 point guards.

"This is the story of the year in Buffalo," Gibbons said from his office in Lenoir, N.C. "Buffalo can't possibly get a better player. This kid is a standout and has to be a leading candidate to be the conference's freshman of the year.

"To say he's an impact player for this team is a gross understatement.

"Turner Battle has the talent to play in the ACC," Gibbons said. "If he had waited to make his choice, he would have ended up getting offers from a higher level.

"He's very quick, guards the ball well, can get by defenders, make the open jumper and he's unselfish."

Witherspoon and assistant Chris Hawkins were the ones who sold Battle on UB. Battle made his official campus visit last weekend.

"I see Buffalo as an opportunity," Battle said. "I think they can have something special there in the next couple years. This team can do some damage."

Battle says he is a B-plus student and already has a qualifying SAT score.

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