Bryn Forbes, Andrew Harrison

New addition to Michigan State program granted immediate eligibility

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With guards Keith Appling and Gary Harris and forward Adreian Payne all having moved on, the Michigan State Spartans have some noticeable holes to fill going into the 2014-15 season. The return of players such as forward Branden Dawson and guards Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine will help Tom Izzo moving forward, and on Wednesday the head coach received some good news from the NCAA with regards to guard Bryn Forbes.

Forbes, who played his first two seasons at Cleveland State before deciding to transfer in order to be closer to his family, has been granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA. As a sophomore Forbes averaged 15.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game and also set a single-season school record with 75 made three-pointers, earning second team All-Horizon League honors.

The addition of Forbes gives Michigan State an experienced player who can knock down perimeter shots, something they can use given the loss of their two best guards from last year’s Elite Eight team.

“This is certainly good news for Bryn,” Izzo said in the release. “Family is very important to Bryn and we are supportive of those obligations. I’d like to thank Jen Smith in our compliance office for all her efforts. Sometimes you look at waiver cases and question the intentions, but if there was ever a case where one seemed to be in order, this is it.

“Bryn is sincere in his desire to be there for his family, and he and I have discussed the work that will be needed to balance that with everything that comes along with being a student-athlete at Michigan State.”

Issues at home, including the health of his sister, impacted Forbes’ decision to transfer with Michigan State being the school he requested permission to speak with as a result. Cleveland State granted the request and in June Forbes made the decision to become a Spartan, rejoining Valentine after the pair won state titles in 2011 and 2012 at Sexton High School (Valentine’s father Carlton is the head coach at Sexton).

“I’m very thankful to the NCAA for allowing me to play this season,” Forbes said in Wednesday’s release. “I also want to thank Coach Waters and the Cleveland State program for being supportive of my desire to return home. My family is extremely important to me and I can’t think of a better situation than being able to play in my hometown.

“This is truly a blessing to me. I’m happy to have this behind me, so that I can focus on balancing basketball, school and family obligations. I just look forward to contributing to the team any way I can.”

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

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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.