When Kentucky coach John Calipari landed celebrated Turkish big man Enes Kanter, the immediate reactions went something like this:
Enes Kanter is a really good player -- the natural replacement to forward DeMarcus Cousins -- and John Calipari's a really good recruiter. (Duh.)
But it might not matter, because Kanter may never actually play.
As of this week, the latter scenario remained up in the air. But Wednesday night, a report from the New York Times' Pete Thamel might have made it a reality. From the report:
In an interview in his office here this week, the general manager of Fenerbahce Ulker, Nedim Karakas, said the club had given banking and housing records to the N.C.A.A. that show Kanter received benefits that could jeopardize his amateur status for college basketball.
“I am sorry for telling this for Enes, but we cannot lie if someone asks the whole story, we cannot hide,” Karakas said.
Karakas said that Fenerbahce provided housing to Kanter and his family for more than three years, provided them with food and pocket money and paid Kanter a salary of more than $6,500 a month during his final season.
The questions about Kanter's eligibility stemmed from his time as a pro prospect in Turkey. Kanter, like West Virginia recruit Denis Kilicli before him, would draw extra scrutiny from the NCAA over whether his Turkish team -- a pro team at the highest level and a developmental team at others -- paid Kanter. If so, obviously, Kanter wouldn't be able to play. If not, then Kanter would be fine.
There are some other vagaries involved, but that's the long and short of it. What the NCAA has spent much of the summer trying to determine is whether Kanter was paid. As of this week, Kanter and Kentucky were still waiting for word; Kanter wasn't allowed to join the team on an August exhibition trip to Canada. If Karakas' revelations are true, then it's very hard to imagine the NCAA approving Kanter now.
There are some caveats here, however. Both the GM (Karakas) and the head of basketball operations for Kanter's former team stand to gain from Kanter's inability to play college basketball; the club would be awarded a transfer fee were Kanter forced to play for a different team. And both admitted they were upset about Kanter's departure. And Kanter wasn't under contract, so the issue was never cut and dry.
The key, however, is the spate of documents Karakas says he submitted to the NCAA. If his description of those documents is accurate, how could the NCAA possibly consider Kanter eligible to play?
That will be decided in the near future. In the meantime, Kentucky fans will have to hope against hope Karakas is overstating the case. Without Kanter, the still-very-talented Wildcats will be a much shorter and more guard-oriented team than the 2009-10 version. It's unclear who -- Eloy Vargas? Josh Harrelson? Terrence Jones? -- would score in the post, let alone dominate the glass in the manner of DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson.
So, yeah, it's not good. Now we wait for word from the NCAA. Kentucky fans, you may commence holding your breath. (In between primal screams therapy sessions, naturally.)