For the second time in as many weeks, the St. John’s front court is without one of its newcomers.
Keith Thomas, a junior college transfer who averaged 15.7 boards per game at Westchester Community College, was ruled academically ineligible, the fallout of an alleged scandal involving the Westchester basketball program forging transcripts.
On Tuesday night, hours after a report from Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News, the St. John’s athletic department announced that freshman center Adonis De La Rosa was ruled a non-qualifier by the NCAA.
“The St. John’s athletic department was recently informed by the NCAA Eligibility Center of the change in certification status for Adonis De La Rosa after new information revealed the student-athlete does not meet eligibility requirements,” St. John’s Director of Athletics Chris Monasch said in a statement. “The University will continue to review the options available in this particular case.”
The 7-foot freshman center, who was listed as a three-star recruit by Rivals, did not play in the Red Storm’s first exhibition game, but did manage to score 10 points and corral five rebounds in 15 minutes against St. Thomas Aquinas College (New York) on Saturday afternoon.
St. John’s has arguably the top back court in the Big East led by D’Angelo Harrison, Rysheed Jordan and Phil Green IV. But its frontline is a serious concern heading into a season where the Red Storm expect to make a return trip to the NCAA tournament after being left out on Selection Sunday last March. Outside of junior shot blocker Chris Obepka, redshirt sophomore Christian Jones and freshman Amar Alibegovi are the only other Johnnies to play in the preseason who stand over 6-foot-7.
The Red Storm open the season on Friday against NJIT at Carnesecca Arena.
Keith Thomas has been ruled academically ineligible at St. John’s, becoming the latest victim of a scandal surrounding the basketball program at Westchester Community College.
Losing Thomas is a massive blow for the Johnnies, who already have an inexperienced front line. Thomas was expected to compete for a starting spot alongside Chris Obekpa.
“Academic integrity is treated very seriously at St. John’s University and we are committed to maintaining high academic standards for all of our student-athletes,” said Director of Athletics Chris Monasch. “Our athletic compliance office recently became aware of information that triggered an additional review of Thomas’ academic credentials at Westchester Community College. Our assessment and decision are in accordance with University and NCAA policies.”
“We share Keith’s disappointment and as a basketball family will provide moral support during this challenging time in his life. Keith clearly has a bright future in basketball and is determined to ultimately further his education,” said head coach Steve Lavin.
This scandal first came to light on Friday, when the Journal News broke the story that former WCC head coach Richard Fields had forged the transcripts of two former players that had transferred to Florida A&M.
The NJCAA has opened an investigation into WCC as well.
St. John’s added a key addition to their frontcourt on Monday as junior college forward Keith Thomas, the nation’s leading rebounder in the junior college ranks last season, committed to the Red Storm. Thomas announced his decision via his Facebook page and choose St. John’s over his other finalists of Loyola (Chicago) and Fordham.
The 6-foot-8, 230-pound Thomas averaged 15.3 points and 15.7 rebounds last season at Westchester Community College in New York and has at least two years of eligibility remaining, if not three.
According to Adam Zagoria of Zags Blog, Thomas can potentially get a third year of eligibility.
“Yeah, it’s possible if the paperwork goes in right, it’s possible to have three years,” Thomas said to Zagoria.
At the very least, Thomas can give the Red Storm an added interior presence as Steve Lavin’s team returns one of the nation’s leading shot blockers in sophomore Chris Obekpa and redshirt sophomore Christian Jones. St. John’s also added a commitment from high school big man Adonis Delarosa earlier this spring.
With D’Angelo Harrison and Rysheed Jordan both returning in the backcourt, St. John’s now has solid role guys up front in Obekpa (interior defense) and Thomas (rebounding) to help compliment its two all-league caliber guards.