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Thursday, November 11, 2010
Kanter decision changes Kentucky's season

By Eamonn Brennan

And now we know.

After six months of uncertainty -- highlighted by a minor media frenzy and conflicting stories from all sides -- the NCAA has finally made its decision on Enes Kanter's eligibility. Or, to be more accurate, his ineligibility. Kanter, despite the T-shirt-clad protests of Big Blue Nation, will not be freed.

In a statement on its web site, the NCAA ruled Kanter to be "permanently ineligible" for receiving benefits "above his actual and necessary expenses" during his time with Fenerbahce in 2008-09. The NCAA determined Kanter received $33,033 during his time with Fenerbahce's professional club team.

Enes Kanter
Enes Kanter was ruled "permanently ineligible" by the NCAA for receiving benefits "above his actual and necessary expenses" during his time with Turkish club Fenerbahce.
Under a new NCAA rule, players that play alongside professionals in European leagues can be eligible as amateurs provided they don't receive additional benefits or salary. After a review of documents from the club -- famously touted by Fenerbahce general manager Nadim Karakas in an interview with the New York Times this summer -- among other sources, the NCAA decided against Kanter and UK.

Kentucky will appeal the decision, but the words "permanently ineligible," as well as the large monetary figure attached, don't bode well for that appeal's chances. More likely than not, Kanter will not play for UK in this, or any other, college basketball season.

This isn't entirely unexpected, even within the Commonwealth. The Lexington Herald-Leader's John Clay characterized the feeling behind the scenes at Kentucky as "more hope than confidence." Taking Kanter was a chance, but it was a chance that came with no downside. Calipari didn't use a scholarship he would have otherwise given to another player, and if Kanter had been cleared, he would have immediately been one of the best big men in the country. If he wasn't cleared, then oh well, right? Kanter's talent was certainly worth the shot.

Expected or not, though, there's no question that Kanter's ineligibility alters the projection for Kentucky's season. With him, the Wildcats not only have several of the best guard and wing prospects in the country -- Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, et al. -- they have a can't-miss big man with professional-level strength, low-block scoring and rebounding skills, and a major interior defensive presence. Without Kanter, the Wildcats are still talented, but they're also decidedly undersized.

With Kanter, Kentucky could've well been a Final Four team. Without him, well, not so much.

Of course, it'd be foolish to count out a team with this much talent. Knight could be one of the best point guards in the country this year; Jones might be a one-and-done-level wing; and Calipari is a master at molding young teams into elite operations. But Kanter's absence is unequivocally a setback. Whether it defines UK's season, or becomes a mere historical footnote on the way to greater things, remains in Kentucky's hands.