The recruiting saga of Enes Kanter is an interesting one, as it details the NCAA's lack of awareness about itself and the ridiculous rules that it continues to put in place.
Enes Kanter was the top-ranked recruit of Kentucky's 2010 recruiting class. Hailing from Turkey, Kanter burst onto the national scene by setting a then-scoring record of 34 points in the Nike Hoops Summit during the spring of 2010.
He finished as the No. 3 overall recruit in Scout's final 2010 player rankings, one spot ahead of future college star Jared Sullinger. The future appeared bright for Kanter, and the only thing standing in his path to achieving a life goal of playing college basketball was resolving his eligibility issues with the NCAA.
This turned out to be the very issue that would prevent Kanter from playing in college. Being that Enes was raised in Turkey, his pre-college experience was completely different from that of an American basketball player.
In Turkey, players do not play for high school basketball teams. Instead, Kanter and other players are allowed to play for national and professional teams.
Therefore, Kanter reserved a spot for the Fenerbahce Ulker Turskish professional team and appeared in nine games for the team. According to FIBA guidelines, a player is not allowed to become a professional player until he reaches 18 years of age.
Therefore, Kanter was not deemed a professional since he was underage and simply received money for necessary travel expenses from the club. This was completely legal and was done so that Kanter could maintain his amateur status.
In fact, Kanter's parents were adamant about prepping Kanter to play college basketball and went out of their way to make sure that he was eligible to play for the NCAA. This was illustrated after Kanter's first season with the professional team, as the young basketball prospect was offered a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract to play for Fenerbahce and the Olyimpiacos B.C. team out of Greece.
Rather than accept millions of dollars and become a professional, the Kanter family declined these offers and continued to prep their son to play in the NCAA. The family was wealthy and money was not an issue for them; they simply wanted their son to receive an American education and play Division I college basketball.
After the season was over, Enes Kanter moved to Simi Valley, California and enrolled to play basketball at Stoneridge Preparatory School. From there, he would burst onto the national scene and initially committed to play for the Washington Huskies, before eventually backing out and committing to play for Kentucky.
Up to this point, it seemed as if the Kanter family had maintained their son's amateur status. However, the NCAA reported that the family had received $33,033 over his necessary travel expenses for the 2008-09 Turkish team. Therefore, Enes Kanter was ruled permanently ineligible to play Division I athletics.
The Kanter family offered to pay back all of the extra expenses, which they did not know were considered to be illegal, in order to maintain Enes' college eligibility. The NCAA declined this option and maintained his permanent ineligibility.
Here is the first confusing part of this saga. The NCAA allows for prospects to play for professional teams as long as they maintain their amateur status before enrolling in a Division I college program. This is exactly what the Kanter family believed that they were doing. However, additional expenses cannot exceed costs for meals, transportation and lodging. The additional expenses identified by the NCAA were educational expenses, so they deemed Kanter ineligible.
Yes, you read that correctly; the NCAA ruled that Enes Kanter had received excess educational expenses. Note, these are not benefits, salary, wages, or any other form of professional income. He received educational expenses. Isn't the NCAA an educational institution? How ridiculous does this sound?
The Kanter family had every intention of maintaining their son's amateur status and even offered to repay the additional funds that they received. They declined a multi-million dollar contract offer in Turkey with the intention of Enes being eligible for the NCAA. How did this family acting out of conduct?
This shows the Kanter family's true desires and character. An international family wanted their son to play basketball in the NCAA—not even the NBA. Throughout the entire process, their goal was to watch their son play amateur basketball, yet the NCAA wouldn't allow that.
Meanwhile, a somewhat similar ruling was laid down on Auburn football's Cam Newton. His father willingly admitted to attempting to coerce Mississippi State in the prior season to pay a six-figure amount for his son's commitment, so Newton was deemed ineligible. This news came out and initially had Newton suspended for one game, but the NCAA quickly reestablished him and let him continue to play.
However, the NCAA did not budge on the issue of Enes Kanter.
As it stands, the facts look like this: the NCAA rewards parents who admitted to taking bribes for their son's commitment, while they also rejected parents who turned down millions of dollars to maintain their son's eligibility.
The final straw comes when you compare Kanter's situation to that of Josh Selby's, who played during the same season that Kanter would have. Selby was ruled ineligible to play college basketball because of impermissible benefits, but was soon ruled eligible as long as Selby repayed $5,757.58 in expenses and sat out the first nine games of the season.
Yes, Selby was allowed to play by simply repaying his extra expenses, but Enes Kanter had to sit out the entire season and was not given the option of repaying his educational expenses. Those two rulings are very inconsistent.
It's unclear why Kanter could not have simply paid back the money, served a suspension and returned once his record was clear. Instead, the NCAA ruled in favor of Selby and Newton, but not Kanter. There is no rhyme or reason for it and it is a shining example of why the NCAA needs to be more self-aware and its article book much easier to interpret.
Enes Kanter tried to become a college student and play for Kentucky, yet the NCAA forced him prematurely into the professional NBA route. NCAA president Mark Emmert effectively ended the academic future of Enes Kanter before it began.