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Monday, November 4, 2013
Kevin Olekaibe awaits NCAA ruling

By Jeff Goodman
ESPN.com

Kevin Olekaibe remains unsure if he will be ruled eligible to play for his hometown UNLV Rebels this season by the NCAA after the senior guard, who led Fresno State in scoring two seasons ago, applied for a hardship waiver with his father gravely ill.

Olekaibe has been awaiting word since September as his father remains in hospice unable to speak or move his lower body.

Kevin Olekaibe
Kevin Olekaibe, Fresno State's leading scorer two seasons ago, is seeking to play for UNLV to be near his gravely ill father.

The NCAA normally requires players who transfer to other Division I schools to sit out one season.

"It's been really tough on him," said Olekaibe's 35-year-old brother, Ike Olekaibe.

The 6-foot-2 Olekaibe averaged 17.8 points per game two seasons ago at Fresno State but saw his production drop to a career-low 8.3 points last season.

While nearly every other basketball player has been rendered a decision by the NCAA on waiver applications, with the majority being cleared, Olekaibe's status remains unclear just days before the team's season opener Friday against Portland State.  

Fresno State has signed off on the move, and Olekaibe -- who grew up in Las Vegas and starred at Cimarron-Memorial High -- has decided to walk on at UNLV.

"We have seen all these other players get approved waivers, and we don't understand," Ike Olekaibe said. "Some aren't even medical situations. Our father is sick. Really sick."

Their father, Benson, suffered a stroke in 2008 while on business in Nigeria. After improving slightly, Ike Olekaibe said his father began to experience dementia. He then suffered another, more debilitating stroke in 2009 and has been in hospice since.

"My dad's paralyzed," Ike Olekaibe told ESPN.com. "He can't speak at all. He's in a vegetative state. We have to shave him. Who knows how much longer he's got?"

Olekaibe has received a scholarship based on his high GPA coming out of high school, and Ike and his other brother, John, will pay the remainder of the tuition, totaling approximately $3,000.

UNLV submitted the paperwork in September to the NCAA, requesting the waiver so Olekaibe could be closer to home and help his mother, Esther, and be able to see his father on a consistent basis.

"I'm really just staying optimistic," Kevin Olekaibe recently told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "The NCAA is taking my case seriously. Fresno State supported it, which makes it a big deal. That helps a lot. It's a real case, and I'm not just transferring to leave the school."

The NCAA has recently cleared several players due to family illnesses. Former Tennessee guard Trae Golden was cleared at Georgia Tech to be closer to his father. Ex-Iowa State player Kerwin Okoro was cleared to play this season at Rutgers after losing both his brother and father. Former Denver guard Royce O'Neale is allowed to play this season at Baylor to be closer to his sick grandfather, and former Drake forward Joey King was cleared at Minnesota due to the health of his brother.

The NCAA has also recently cleared former Houston guard Joseph Young at Oregon after his father, a former Cougars assistant, was reassigned. Ex-UCLA big man Josh Smith is able to play this season at Georgetown and will get a semester back after playing six games a year ago for the Bruins.

Ike Olekaibe said he has provided the NCAA with numerous medical records and is hoping the family receives information from the NCAA this week, perhaps as early as Monday.

The NCAA did not immediately respond to request for comment Monday morning.

"This is legitimate," he said. "He's coming home to be closer to his family, to be there for my mom and see my dad. Many of these kids seem to be using loopholes to be eligible right away, but this isn't a loophole. It's a true real-life situation. My dad can't move."