Pittsburgh's chances of quickly rebounding from a rare down season may hinge on whether or not the NCAA grants coveted Central Michigan transfer Trey Zeigler the right to play immediately.
Zeigler, a former elite recruit who averaged 15.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore, will apply for a waiver that would allow him to avoid sitting out a full year at Pittsburgh as is customary for transfers. The grounds for the waiver is that Zeigler only left Central Michigan because his father, Chippewas coach Ernie Zeigler, was fired in March after a disappointing 11-21 season.
The hardship waiver traditionally has benefited athletes who transfer because of financial hardship, injury or illness to themselves or a member of their family, but historical precedent suggests Zeigler has a better chance than some may think.
Infielder Cade Kreuter transferred from USC to Miami after the Trojans fired his father Chad following the 2010 baseball season. A Miami spokesman confirmed the school applied for a waiver for Cade on those grounds and it was granted, enabling him to contribute right away in 2011 rather than sitting out a full year.
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The only similar scenario in men's college basketball in recent years was guard C.J. Reed's transfer to Central Florida last year following the dismissal of his dad at Bethune-Cookman. A UCF spokesman said the school did not apply for a waiver for Reed, so the reigning MEAC player of the year sat out all last season.
If the NCAA does grant Zeigler a waiver, it would give Pittsburgh a replacement for senior shooting guard Ashton Gibbs capable of complementing starting point guard Tray Woodall. Throw in sophomores-to-be John Johnson and Cameron Wright, both of whom started a few games this past season while Woodall was injured, and the Panthers suddenly have one of the Big East's premier backcourts.
With a healthy Woodall, an eligible Zeigler and the addition of top 10 recruit Steven Adams to bolster the frontcourt, Pittsburgh should be back in contention for an NCAA tournament berth and perhaps even the Big East crown.
Zeigler, whose father coached at Pittsburgh with Jamie Dixon under Ben Howland, chose the Panthers over UCLA and Duke, among others. His rebounding and scoring punch will help Pittsburgh no matter whenever he becomes eligible, but the Panthers would very much like that to be sooner rather than later.
(Thanks, Oakland Zoo)
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