Jayhawks still awaiting clearance for touted freshman Diallo
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Touted freshman Cheick Diallo has been cleared to begin practicing with Kansas this week.
He’s still awaiting word from the NCAA on whether he can play this season.
The five-star prospect from Mali attended Our Savior New American, a private high school in Centereach, New York. But the legitimacy of the school’s classes has come under scrutiny by the NCAA, and Alabama and Oklahoma State have had recruits from there ruled ineligible.
Jayhawks coach Bill Self said Thursday he is hopeful Diallo will be cleared, but also said there is no timetable for a decision. Kansas plays its exhibition opener Nov. 4.
"It gets very frustrating. It’s time-consuming and it is frustrating," Self said, "but it’s not as much frustration for us as the individual, the kid. You stop and think about an 18-year-old kid that comes from Africa, been here for three-and-a-half years and does what he’s asked to, who has goals and dreams — all these things are hanging on this."
Kansas is still supplying the NCAA with documentation to back up its case, the details of which remain vague. That’s a big reason why no decision has been rendered.
"There’s a lot of stress involved," Self said. "Sure, we want to win games, but that’s not more important than what’s in the best interest of the young man."
Make no mistake, Diallo could help the Jayhawks win games.
The athletic, 6-foot-9 forward is far from polished on offense, but he has a high motor and is more than capable of defending the rim. He also is a strong rebounder, and his ability to get up and down the court fits well with what should be a fast-paced Kansas team.
"I just want to play this year," he said. "I want to play."
Asked whether he is frustrated by the NCAA impasse, he replied: "Of course, yeah. But I cannot do anything about it. I have to let it go. Keep doing what I’m supposed to do."
This is not the first time the Jayhawks have been in this predicament. Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor went through the same process a few years ago, and the NCAA eventually ruled them partial qualifiers. They had to sit out one season before becoming eligible.
But in Diallo’s case, there are reasons for optimism. Two of his former teammates at Our Savior, Damon Wilson and Davon Dillard, have already been cleared to play. Wilson is a freshman at Pittsburgh and Dillard is playing for Big 12 rival Oklahoma State.
"It’s a very unique situation here you’re dealing with someone like Cheick that’s basically totally naive to everything around him, and all he’s ever done is what people around him have told him to do," Self said. "Everybody is on top of it, everybody is doing what they should do. We understand it takes time and nobody is complaining about that at all."