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Friday, August 19, 2011
Prep school courses leave recruits in limbo

By Diamond Leung

Shaquille Thomas, a former ESPNU top-100 recruit, has the talent and the bloodlines as the nephew of former Villanova and NBA player Tim Thomas, but has he met the academic requirements needed to begin making an impact in the Big East?

Cincinnati signed him to a national letter of intent in November only to learn, according to SNY.tv, that he was among four incoming freshmen college basketball players from NIA Prep in Newark, N.J. to have been denied eligibility by the NCAA. Thomas must appeal to get it.

"Our compliance department is working with the NIA Prep as well as the NCAA and we’re confident that everything is going to work out," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin told SNY.tv, referring to Thomas' case.

But having the availability of a top recruit in question can't be a good feeling for any program. Considering NIA Prep is located in the basement of a hotel, according to The Star-Ledger, it's easy to see why the NCAA might want to review whether the coursework should be accepted.

"Shaq Thomas has unbelievable upside as a basketball player," Cronin said on signing day. "At 6-foot-8, he has the ball-handling skills of a guard as well as shooting ability from the perimeter. Shaq is one of the best athletes in the country who can jump out of the gym."

But the Bearcats will have to wait and see.

Thomas isn't the only Big East recruit having his eligibility looked at by the NCAA because of NIA Prep. TCU was hoping the addition of a rugged 6-foot-9 New York native like Ryan Rhoomes would be a positive step forward as it prepares to leave the Mountain West Conference and compete in the Big East next year. But now his status is unclear as well.