Every summer, after the recruitment process has finished and the newest crop of incoming freshman have decided where they want to play their college ball, college hoops plays the waiting game as each of those recruits finds out whether or not they will make it through the NCAA’s Clearinghouse.
Last year, it was Providence commit Ricardo Ledo that made the most headlines when he was declared ineligible for the 2012-2013 season, but he wasn’t the only top 100 recruit that had to take an academic redshirt. Chicken Knowles didn’t play for Houston this past season, and Washington State was without Demarquise Johnson. Terry Rozier ended up enrolling at a prep school instead of Louisville.
The year before, it was Jahii Carson of Arizona State, Ben McLemore from Kansas and three members of St. John’s recruiting class — Norvel Pelle, Amir Garrett and Jakaar Sampson — that were among the names not allowed to take the court as freshmen.
This year, the biggest name currently in eligibility limbo is Florida commit Chris Walker, a top ten player in the Class of 2013.
We’ve discussed Walker’s status before, but never the cause of his eligibility question marks. On Monday, Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com got to the bottom of it:
Walker’s father has forever been non-existent.
His mother essentially abandoned him years ago.
He’s spent his high school years living with a guardian named Jeneen Campbell and attending one of the state of Florida’s smallest public schools, mostly because he wanted to be loyal to the woman who was loyal to him. Walker could’ve transferred to any of the fancy basketball academies at any time over the past few years, and he would’ve probably benefited academically from it. But when you’ve been left by the adults whose top responsibility is to never leave you, it must be difficult to then turnaround and leave the one adult who didn’t. So Walker stayed with Campbell and at Holmes County High.
Holmes County High may be a fine high school, but it’s not one that is used to churning out Division I athletes. What that means is that Walker wasn’t enrolled in the classes as a freshman and sophomore that would put him on the right track to get eligible in the eyes of the NCAA. So he’s been forced to play catchup for the last couple of years, and he’s spending his summer working just as hard at getting the grades he needs in online courses as he is at improving his post game and adding some weight to his frame.
Florida is hoping for the best, and it seems that most people around Walker and the Florida program are cautiously optimistic.
The point here isn’t to absolve Walker of responsibility for his academic issues, because at the end of the days it’s his responsibility to get the grades he needs in the classes he needs to get them.
But it does put this situation into context.
Walker isn’t simply a case of a kid being lazy or dumb. He’s a product of his environment, and that goes for a number of the kids that have been ruled ineligible in recent years as well. Remember this story about Ben McLemore? His family was so poor growing up that 10 people lived in a 600 square foot apartment and they had to choose between using food stamps to eat or to sell to get money to keep the heat and the lights on.
You think a kid in that situation is going to be all that worried about his grades when college basketball is still years in the future?
As with any kid, sometimes there’s a reason for those academic problems beyond apathy.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.