John Calipari knew exactly what he was getting into.
The Kentucky coach chose to ignore the widespread industry speculation that Wildcats freshman center Enes Kanter had accepted payments in the sum of six figures from his former pro team in Turkey.
Multiple coaching staffs had passed on Kanter, but Calipari and the Wildcats decided to sign the ultra-talented Turkish big man nonetheless.
There was truly nothing to lose for Calipari since whatever occurred between the team, Fenerbahce Ulcer and Kanter’s family went down prior to Kentucky’s recruitment, anyway.
Now, The New York Times report this week has the general manager of Fenerbahce Ulcer asserting that they paid Kanter and his family in excess of $100,000.
This isn’t a shock to anyone — especially to Calipari, who declined to comment to the newspaper.
Nedim Karakas, the general manager, said that the club has given the NCAA banking and housing records that document the financial transactions, which could result in Kanter being deemed ineligible by the NCAA.
Let’s begin with Kanter and his potential impact.
He’s regarded as a difference-maker by any and all who have seen him play. A big, strong player who can score in the post and is a relentless rebounder.
"A lottery pick for sure,” said one NBA executive. "Maybe even the No. 1 overall pick.”
The 6-foot-11, 270-pounder could instantly become the best big man in college basketball this season. Think of DeMarcus Cousins without all the emotional baggage.
With Kanter, Kentucky could be a legitimate Final Four team. Without him, the Wildcats are likely just another Top 25 team.
But now, it’s in the NCAA’s hands to determine whether the information given to them by Fenerbahce is, in fact, accurate. Thus far, Kanter has not been cleared. He sat out Kentucky’s recent trip to Canada and is waiting on a decision.
A ruling is expected in the next month or so by the NCAA, but it could also drag on as it did a year ago on the eligibility of Mississippi State freshman Renardo Sidney, who was suspended for the entire season and also 30 percent of this year due to unethical conduct and impermissible benefits.
Fenerbahce is obviously bitter that Kanter left for college basketball, something that rarely happens. Usually, the elite-level players either remain or go directly to the NBA. The team would also receive a transfer fee if Kanter is deemed ineligible and is forced to play overseas.
However, if the documents are deemed legitimate, then it’ll be up to the NCAA to determine a punishment for Kanter — and it’s likely he won’t see a college basketball court anytime soon.
Calipari told the Sporting News back in April that Kanter didn’t receive any money.
Karakas, on the other hand, told The Times that it provided housing for more than three years, food and pocket money and also paid Kanter a salary of more than $6,500 a month during his final season. Karakas said the club gave Kanter and his family between $100,000 to $150,000, beginning when Kanter was 14.
Kanter’s so-called advisor, Max Ergul, compared Kanter receiving the alleged $100,000 or more to being given a scholarship to a prep school. However, there is a major difference: Prep schools don’t hand over cash.
Most players, even the elite ones who attend prep schools, have to pay a minimum of $2,000 a year.
Kanter’s situation has been bandied about for months among college basketball coaches. At one time, he was committed to Washington, but the well-traveled (he attended numerous schools since arriving in this country) 18-year-old son of a professor de-committed from the Huskies and wound up signing with Kentucky.
There were, according to sources, plenty of other schools in the mix who were contacted by Ergul, who considers himself an advisor for Turkish players such as Dogus Balbay (Texas) and Denis Kilicli (West Virginia) that have come to the United States to play college basketball.
Most of the schools took a pass, but Calipari decided Kanter was worth the risk.
Now, he’ll have to wait and see whether it pays off.