Trey McKinney Jones, Reggie Johnson, Ashton Pankey

NCAA denies Manhattan forward Ashton Pankey’s waiver request

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While Iona received the good news that Iowa State transfer Tavon Sledge would be eligible immediately on Thursday, another MAAC contender wasn’t as fortunate.

The NCAA ruled that Ashton Pankey’s eligibility waiver was not granted, meaning that the Manhattan forward would have to sit out the 2012-13 season after transferring in from Maryland.

In 32 games at Maryland last season Pankey averaged just 4.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, but he had a chance to be an impact player for the Jaspers in their quest to win the MAAC.

And even though Steve Masiello’s team can still go 10 or 11 players deep as one of the favorites to win the conference, having Pankey’s waiver denied is a bitter pill to swallow.

“It’s not the news we were hoping for,” Masiello said to Sean Brennan of the NY Daily News.

“But we’re going to pursue an appeal. Obviously we were hopeful for a better outcome. But I’ve been here before while I was at other institutions where I’ve seen waivers denied and then go the other way on appeal. So it’s not over yet.”

The Jaspers return Emmy Andujar, Rhamel Brown and Roberto Colonette when it comes to key front court contributors in 2011-12, when they won 21 games in one of the biggest turnarounds in college basketball.

Sophomore Ryan McCoy averaged just over nine minutes per game in 2011-12, and the other two front court players (Adam Lacey and Shane Richards) are both freshmen.

Given the skill of Andujar, Brown and Colonette and a very good perimeter led by junior George Beamon, Manhattan will still be one of the favorites in the MAAC.

But if Pankey’s appeal is upheld the Jaspers become an even tougher out in what will be a highly competitive title race.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej. 

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.