On the eve of Kentucky’s season opener against East Tennessee State, the NCAA has ruled Kentucky’s Enes Kanter as permanently ineligible to participate, claiming that he was paid more than the “necessary expenses” during his time with the Turkish club Fenerbahce two years ago.
The NCAA statement released earlier tonight explains that while Kanter “competed primarily for the club’s under-18 junior team, he did compete for the club’s senior team in 2008-09. According to facts agreed to by the university and the NCAA Eligibility Center, Kanter received $33,033 more than his expenses for the 2008-09 season.” In the NCAA’s eyes, this makes Kanter a professional basketball player.
The issue here was not that Kanter played in games with professional players during his short time playing on the senior level at Fenerbahce. The NCAA statement notes that, “The new NCAA rule that allows prospective student-athletes to compete on teams with professionals while maintaining their amateur status prior to college applies,” but then says that Kanter simply received what the NCAA considers too much compensation for that season.
Obviously, Kentucky will appeal. Because the school agreed to all of the facts and figures involved in the NCAA’s process of making this decision, the appeal will likely center on reducing the harshness of the punishment and citing any remotely relevant precedents to that effect. Kanter can practice with UK until the appeals process is finished.
In the wake of this decision, new transfer Eloy Vargas (6’11, 250 lb.) and senior reserve Josh Harrellson (6’10, 275 lb.) take on greater importance for John Calipari’s second Wildcat squad. Kentucky could also conceivably employ a smaller lineup, using 6’8 freshman Terrence Jones in the middle and surrounding him with four guards, namely freshman sensation Brandon Knight, de facto team leader Darius Miller, slasher DeAndre Liggins, and Doron Lamb, another freshman who has started both of UK’s exhibition games. We’ll find out soon enough, since the season opener is tomorrow night.