For all the endless hours of debate the Enes Kanter saga has inspired the past four months, the facts of the case against the highly touted Kentucky freshman are really remarkably simple.
Kanter was originally ruled permanently ineligible in November because both Kentucky and the NCAA agreed that the Turkish big man received $33,033 in salary from his club team during the 2008-09 season. No matter how many creative appeals Kentucky concocted in its endless quest to restore Kanter's eligibility, none of them could overcome that simple fact.
The NCAA denied Kentucky's final appeal on Friday, ensuring that Kanter will never play for the Wildcats and leaving the 6-foot-10 future lottery pick little choice but to declare for the NBA draft this spring. It's a decision that is unpopular among Kentucky fans and those who are sympathetic to Kanter, yet it's clearly the appropriate decision based on the NCAA's current rules.
What makes the Kanter decision controversial is the NCAA has not been consistent enough in how it enforces its rules of late and Kanter seems like just the type of kid worth bending the rules to protect.
Whether its Auburn's Cam Newton playing despite allegations that his father sought payment from Mississippi State or Ohio State's five suspended football players being allowed to suit up for the Sugar Bowl, it often seems as though the NCAA is making up the rules as it goes along. Then consider that Kanter turned down far more money than $33,033 from European pro teams to play U.S. college basketball, and it seems as though it's not doing anyone any good to keep him on the sideline.
Still, just because the NCAA has so badly botched other recent cases doesn't mean that it should set another bad precedent here.
Kanter is a pro. He knowingly accepted salary from a professional team in Turkey. To make an exception and allow him to play for Kentucky would theoretically open the door for NCAA teams to recruit other European pros who might benefit from the exposure of college basketball.
The continued absence of Kanter leaves Kentucky shorthanded down low for the rest of the season, but the Wildcats have dealt with that admirably so far. Freshman Terrence Jones has been spectacular at power forward and the duo of senior Josh Harrelson and junior college transfer Eloy Vargas have kept the center position from being a liability, enabling Kentucky to enter SEC play as the favorite once again.
Kanter will remain involved in the Kentucky program this season in a student manager-type role.
It certainly would be more fun to see him on the court rather than the bench, but the NCAA made the appropriate decision sitting him down.