NCAA says Michael Lizarraga can play

Updated: December 16, 2011, 9:00 PM ET
By Diamond Leung | ESPN.com

Cal State Northridge forward Michael Lizarraga, the nation's only deaf Division I men's basketball player, was granted a waiver by the NCAA on Friday that gives him eligibility to play the final 20 games of the season.

Lizarraga, who averaged 5.9 points and 4.2 rebounds playing in all 32 games as a senior during the 2010-11 season, hoped the NCAA would allow him another year because he only played in 35 minutes and seven games as a freshman.

"This is obviously very good news for our program and for Michael," coach Bobby Braswell said in a statement. "We thought we had a strong case in appealing for additional eligibility and were thankful the NCAA saw it the same way. On the court, he immediately helps us out on the interior which is an area where we have struggled this year. Ultimately, we are happy to have Mike back in the family and the guys' faces really lit up when they heard he'd be coming back."

Cal State Northridge is 2-6 this season and ineligible for postseason play because of Academic Progress rate penalties, but the 6-foot-7 Lizarraga could provide a lift. He was the team's second-leading rebounder last season and also given a special Inspirational Award by the Big West Conference for his "remarkable story of... courage on and off the court."

Diamond Leung covers college basketball for ESPN.com and can be reached at diamond83@gmail.com.