January 11, 2011

NCAA: Enes Kanter decision easy

LEXINGTON, Ky. — It came as “a shock” to Enes Kanter that he was ruled ineligible to play for the University of Kentucky men's basketball team, coach John Calipari said on Monday.

But the president of the NCAA doesn't understand why anyone is surprised.

In an interview with SI.com's Seth Davis, NCAA president Mark Emmert said the facts are “utterly unambiguous” in the case of Kanter, who was ruled permanently ineligible because he received $33,033 in benefits above his expenses while playing for a pro club in his native Turkey.

“The vast majority of people in collegiate basketball knew that this was an issue with Enes Kanter,” Emmert told SI.com. “Kentucky knew it. Everybody who talked with him knew it. So I'm amazed that people are shocked by the fact that he is ineligible.”


Six-point Auburn next for Kentucky basketball

The NCAA did not respond to The Courier-Journal's request to interview Emmert.

UK said Kanter was not available to talk, although he might speak publicly at a later date.

Calipari, without mentioning Emmert specifically, said of the NCAA: “You made your decision. Why keep commenting?”

But the UK coach had plenty to say about the Kanter case, a hot topic with reporters at his media briefing in advance of tonight's game against Auburn at Rupp Arena.

Calipari shot down the notion that Kanter — a 6-foot-11 center who's projected as a top-five pick in June's NBA draft — would play for the Bluegrass Stallions, a Georgetown-based team in the Premier Basketball League that issued a statement on Sunday saying it hoped to pursue Kanter.

Instead, Calipari said, Kanter will remain a part of UK's team as an undergraduate assistant coach. He'll work with the Wildcats in a limited capacity in practice. He'll travel to road games with his teammates.

And Kanter will work with Calipari in preparation for the NBA draft. He can remain on scholarship at UK through the end of the school year.

“He did not want to put his name in the draft,” Calipari said. “Had no desire to at all. Now I don't think he has a whole lot of choices, but that's not what he wanted to do.”

On Monday's Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference, Calipari said the NCAA's final ruling on Kanter last week — the last of four rulings — “has been a shock to he and his family.”

Calipari wondered aloud why a case that he said has been described as “black and white” took so long to be decided. But part the delay was caused in part by UK's series of appeals.

The university appealed the NCAA's initial ineligible ruling, and when that appeal was denied, UK resubmitted the case to the NCAA with new information. When the NCAA again ruled against Kanter, UK filed its final appeal, which was denied last week.

UK's first appeal, spokesman DeWayne Peevy said, was a joint decision by the university and the Kanter family. The second appeal, Peevy said, was Kanter's call.


Six-point Auburn next for Kentucky basketball

“The second time, we totally left it up to him,” Peevy said. “At that point, I guess it had gone so long — already into December — you don't want to feel like you didn't try everything. But if he was ready to stop, we were, too.”

The NCAA ruled Kanter ineligible because he received money above his expenses from Fenerbahce Ulker, a pro club in Turkey. Calipari said Monday that UK was told the amount of money was immaterial.

“We were told it didn't matter if it was $500 more (than expenses), that he would not be able to play,” Calipari said.

UK maintained throughout its appeals process that the Kanters used the majority of the money received from Fenerbahce for educational expenses, and that Kanter never signed a contract with the club in the interest of maintaining his amateur status.

“I don't know the young man or his family,” Emmert told SI.com. “If their intention all along was to have him come play in the United States, then it would simply have been a matter of not accepting pay.”

Emmert noted to SI.com that despite Kanter's talents, “very few” schools recruited him because they were aware of a potential amateurism issue.

Among the schools that recruited Kanter was Washington, and Emmert was the university's president at the time. But in the SI.com interview, Emmert called TV analyst Dick Vitale's suggestion that Kanter would not have been permanently ineligible to play for the Huskies “ridiculous.”

“This has nothing to do with Kentucky or Coach Calipari,” Emmert told SI.com. “It has to do with a clear rule and a clear set of facts.”

Bett Dawson

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