Turk Recruit’s Status Remains In Limbo

by Dan Bodner

The state of Kentucky has been abuzz recently about the eligibility of prized University of Kentucky basketball recruit Enes Kanter. The 6-foot-11, 272-pound freshman from Turkey has been a hot topic primarily because of the uniqueness of his situation.

From 2008 to 2009, Kanter played for Fenerbahçe Ülker, a Turkish professional basketball team. He was a seldom-used reserve, but he did play in a total of nine games while with the team.

He subsequently received contract offers from a number of European professional teams, but declined them because he wanted to attend high school and college in the United States.

His desire to play college basketball in America turned into a legitimate possibility when the NCAA approved exception, which would grant eligibility to athletes who had played with a professional team, but had not received “more than actual and necessary expenses.”

In the past, a student-athlete would be penalized by having to sit out of one game for every professional game he had participated in. For example, most recently a West Virginia University recruit, Deniz Kilicli, was suspended for a total of 20 games because of his time spent with a professional team.

Because of this new exception, Kanter would be immediately eligible to play at UK, which would seemingly open the door for other foreign players in the future to do the same.

Yet, in order for Kanter to gain eligibility, he must still prove that he never compromised his amateur status by accepting compensation exceeding any necessary expenses. According to the NCAA, necessary expenses include things such as food, athletic apparel, competition-related travel expenses and, to some extent, housing.

This requirement is still very much in question. According to The New York Times, the general manager of Fenerbahçe Ülker has stated that Kanter was compensated by the team with more than $100,000 in benefits, including a salary of $6,500 per month in his final year.

However, the team did decline any requests to show documentation of these transactions to the media, so it is still unclear as to the accuracy of these accusations.

Also, the Turkish team does have a lot at stake depending on the ruling on Kanter’s eligibility. If he were to be ruled ineligible, he would most likely return to Europe to play for a year and Fenerbahçe Ülker would be owed a transfer fee. If he is ruled eligible, the team will receive nothing in return for a prospect in whom they have reportedly invested a lot.

The burden of proof falls ultimately on Kanter and the University of Kentucky. They must present compelling evidence that he never compromised his amateur status, and the NCAA’s amateurism department will then assess whether or not it is sufficient enough to grant him eligibility.

It is unclear exactly what or when the NCAA’s decision will be, but one should be made within the next couple of weeks. What is clear is that the NCAA’s decision will not only have a major impact on UK’s upcoming season, but also on the future of college basketball and recruiting in general.


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