January 07, 2011

The appeals committee upheld a prior ruling by the NCAA that declared celebrated Kentucky freshman Enes Kanter permanently ineligible, SI.com has learned.

The NCAA initially ruled Kanter ineligible on Nov. 11 for receiving benefits "above his actual and necessary expenses" during his time with Turkish club Fenerbahce in 2008-09. (NCAA bylaws state that potential players can participate on teams with professionals as long as they don't receive excessive pay.) The NCAA's release said that Kanter received $33,033 more than the permitted expenses.

Kentucky appealed the ruling and was waiting for a decision when the NCAA declared Auburn quarterback Cam Newton eligible. The Wildcats then asked for permission to re-submit their appeal in light of the ruling on Newton.

Kanter, a gifted 6-foot-10 forward/center, is projected as a lottery pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Despite his absence, No. 10 Kentucky is off to a 12-2 start in the 2010-11 campaign.

"We are obviously disappointed in this decision and find it unfortunate that a group of adults would come to such a decision regarding the future of an 18-year-old young man," coach John Calipari said.

Calipari has maintained from the beginning that Kanter is an amateur in his eyes. He says his job now is to prepare the Kanter for the NBA draft. The 6-foot-11 center is projected as a top-10 draft pick.

"The final decision of the reinstatement committee is completely compatible with the collegiate model of sports our members have developed, since he received a significant amount of money, above his actual expenses, from a professional team prior to coming to college," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs.

Kanter has become a cult figure during his time on campus. He was introduced to a rousing ovation during Big Blue Madness in October, walking across a smoke-filled stage while ominous music played over the speakers.

Fans have taken up a "Free Enes" movement that included T-shirts and photos of fans holding "Free Enes" banners everywhere from Rupp Arena to the U.S. Capitol.

Kanter has been allowed to practice with the team during the review process and was dressed Friday as the 10th-ranked Wildcats prepared for their Southeastern Conference opener against Georgia.

University spokesman DeWayne Peevy said it's likely Kanter will be able remain involved in the program in some capacity so long as he stays in school.

Calipari had hired Wayne Turner in September, adding the former star guard to his staff while he completes his undergraduate degree. NCAA rules allow former players who have re-enrolled in school to be used as on-court staffers.

Kanter's family could take the NCAA to court to file an injunction. Calipari said Friday "whatever they choose to do as a family, we'll support."

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