St. John’s forward Orlando Sanchez played a total of three minutes and thirty-eight seconds with the Dominican National Team in 2010 and, as the NCAA ruled in January, that is apparently enough to cost him his final year of college eligibility.
Sanchez, 24, was a highly touted and versatile forward prospect when he signed with St. John’s in April 2012, part of another strong recruiting class for coach Steve Lavin in Queens. He has since been forced to sit as his Red Storm teammates push for an NCAA tournament berth.
According to NCAA rules, a year of organized competition after the age of 21 counts as a year of eligibility. Thus, he had previously played two years at Monroe College and eight games with a Dominican amateur club team in 2009. That together makes three, plus the NCAA’s assertion that his time with the Dominican team would have used up his available eligibility.
If the rules are applied without flexibility, the ramifications can be harsh, said Jason Lanter, an assistant professor of psychology at Kutztown University and a former president of the Drake Group, an N.C.A.A. watchdog. “You are at the whims of the N.C.A.A.,” he said. “They are the judge, jury and executioner.”
St. John’s and Sanchez have now retained the legal counsel of Robert Orr, who was hired by UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad when he was accused by the NCAA of taking impermissible benefits and held out of competition earlier this season.
“Orlando is a thoughtful, humble and focused young man, who has worked diligently toward his goals,” Lavin said in a statement. “He has been successful as a student with a 3.48 GPA during his time at St. John’s, and has shown both promise and progress practicing as a member of our team throughout the year. Our University continues to work in concert with the NCAA as we have throughout the waiver and appeals process.”
If Sanchez’s case is reopened and he wins the appeal, the Red Storm have one open scholarship remaining. They are actively recruiting Philadelphia point guard Rysheed Jordan and senior forward God’sgift Achiuwa is redshirting this season.