The allure of Turkish big man Enes Kanter was powerful enough that Washington and, later, Kentucky, continued pursuit despite the NCAA telling them Kanter was under investigation from the start.
The NCAA called the University of Washington compliance office shortly after star Turkish recruit Enes Kanter verbally committed to play basketball there for the 2010-11 season to warn them about Kanters eligibility issues, Sportspress Northwest has learned.
Stephen Webb, associate director of amateurism certification at NCAA Eligibility Center, called the school about Kanter, one of the top recruits in the country at the time, prior to National Letter of Intent Day in the fall of 2009. The NCAA said it was aware that the Turkish league Kanter played in was mostly or all professional. It was investigating, and asked if Washington was doing the same. At the time, the school was not.
That information was relayed to Washington coach Lorenzo Romar and surprised the school. It was the only time the university had received a call from the NCAA about a recruits possible eligibility issues. One call. None prior or since. UW officials confirmed the NCAA’s account but declined to speak on the matter.
Kanter changed his verbal commitment to Kentucky approximately five months later. That prompted the same call to Kentucky. The NCAA phoned the Wildcats to tell them Kanter was under investigation for his play at Fenerbahçe Ülker.
Eventually, Kanter was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for receiving $33,033 for playing the 2008-09 season as part of the Turkish pro team. The NCAA deemed Kanter received a significant amount of money, above his actual expenses, from a professional team prior to coming to college.
At Thursdays NBA draft, the 6-foot-11 skilled power forward is expected to be a top five pick.
Kanters lost eligibility spawned immediate conspiracy theories predicated on former University of Washington president Mark Emmert being the head man of the NCAA when the final ruling about Kanters eligibility was made.
Prominent college basketball voices, none more so than Dick Vitale, made the Tea Party proud by extolling conspiracy, saying Emmerts decision to rule Kanter ineligible would not have happened if Kanter chose to remain with Washington. Sprinkle in a little Terrence Jones, who also committed to Washington only to change his mind and pick Kentucky, and a simple finger-pointing line of thinking results.
… if Kanter went to Wash. I believe he would NOT be ineligible 4 4 years -have super 2011! Vitale tweeted to Sports Illustrateds Seth Davis.
The trouble with that is no one disputes Kanter received money from a professional league, which was the basis for his ineligibility. And Emmert became NCAA president roughly a year after the organization contacted Washington about Kanters possible eligibility problems with the rare phone call.
This much is clear: No matter who the NCAA president was at the time of Kanters recruitment or suspension, neither Washington nor Kentucky can claim ignorance about the gathering storm around the recruit.
The vast majority of people in collegiate basketball knew that this was an issue with Enes Kanter,” Emmert told Davis in January. “Kentucky knew it. Everybody who talked with him knew it. So I’m amazed that people are shocked by the fact that he is ineligible.”
Also a fact is that the NCAA was inconsistent with its ruling against Kansas Josh Selby and Mississippi States Renardo Sidney, as compared to Kanter. Each were found to have received impermissible benefits, but were allowed to play after repaying the money and serving a suspension.
Washington says it is the first and only time it has been contacted by the NCAA in such a manner. The NCAA says this type of contact is commonplace.
The purpose is often, as it was here, to begin working collaboratively with the institution on the review as early as possible. The University of Washington was contacted given Mr. Kanters verbal commitment at the time and the institutions inclusion of Mr. Kanter on its Institutional Request List, an NCAA spokeperson said.
The organization said it contacted Kentucky once Kanter altered his commitment for the same reason.
Again, the purpose was to begin working collaboratively with the institution on the amateurism review as early as possible, an NCAA spokesperson said.
Kanters eligibility questions are part of the reason the NCAA has increased its international compliance arm. Oversight of foreign-born recruits has grown exponentially the last few years.
Washington has two players with international backgrounds. Aziz NDiaye, born in Senegal, will be a junior this fall. Martin Breunig, a German national, gave a verbal commitment to play for the school this fall.