NCAA rules UNLV forward Derrick Jones ineligible

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Less than a week after he scored 23 points and had a key blocked shot that preserved UNLV’s 79-74 win over Wyoming, freshman forward Derrick Jones learned that he’s been declared ineligible by the NCAA. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the reason for the NCAA’s decision centers around the site in the Baltimore area where Jones took his ACT.

The American College Test had issues with the site, leading to their decision to invalidate Jones’ test score. And without those scores, the NCAA made the decision to sideline the freshman for the remainder of the season.

Jones and his family have hired an attorney, Don Jackson, who issued a statement regarding the matter and noted that the NCAA prompted the investigation into Jones’ test score. Jackson has plenty of experience in such cases, most recently representing Kansas’ Cheick Diallo in his fight to gain eligibility.

“This ‘investigation’ has been ongoing for almost a year; there can be no other explanation for the timing. Over the past decade, I have routinely spoken about the selective application of NCAA initial eligibility rules to African American and international student-athletes. All of the student-athletes impacted by the ‘investigation’ of the testing site in this case were either African American or international. The testing site was ethnically diverse. The NCAA’s methodology for ‘red flagging’ student-athletes and demanding substantiation for their academic performances and standardized test performance is blatantly discriminatory and selectively applied to African American and international student-athletes.”

Given how long the investigation into the testing site has been open, the timing for the decision to disqualify Jones from competition is bad. If there were questions before the season even began, why would Jones even be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center for competition? Hopefully more will be learned about this in the future, but for the time being the best Jones and his family can do is “lawyer up” as they have.

As for UNLV’s on-court prospects, they lose a productive front court contributor just three days before their season finale at San Diego State. A win there, combined with a New Mexico loss at Nevada Saturday, would push the Runnin’ Rebels into the five-seed for the Mountain West tournament. That would keep UNLV, a team that’s been hit hard by injuries this season, from having to play in the first round (seeds six through eleven) of the tournament next Wednesday.

The Runnin’ Rebels are already without Ben Carter and Dwayne Morgan, with Carter having torn knee ligaments earlier this season and Morgan dealing with a separated shoulder. Add in the fact that freshman Stephen Zimmerman just recently returned from injury, and interim head coach Todd Simon will have to work with an even smaller rotation.