Kansas fans have chanted "Free Diallo" throughout this week's Maui Invitational.
Soon, they will get their wish.
The NCAA concluded a lengthy investigation into Kansas freshman Cheick Diallo's eligibility on Wednesday with the announcement that the McDonald's All-American forward will be eligible to play for the Jayhawks starting against Loyola (Md.) on Dec. 1. Kansas' matchup with Vanderbilt in the Maui Invitational title game on Wednesday night will be the last game Diallo will sit out.
“Our goal is to have eligibility decisions made prior to the start of a student-athlete’s season,” Oliver Luck, NCAA executive vice president of regulatory affairs, said in a statement. “However, this was a complicated case involving international transcripts and a high school that remains under review. Additionally, staff considered a complex set of circumstances regarding amateurism.”
The major issue in the Diallo case concerned the time he spent at Our Savior New American Prep School, which has been under NCAA review for several years. Based upon an independent review of Diallo's coursework that Kansas provided on Nov. 20 and information its investigators had already gathered, the NCAA approved Diallo's initial eligibility waiver.
As for the amateurism aspect, the NCAA ruled that Diallo received a limited amount of extra benefits and will not be eligible for five games. The Maui Invitational title game is the last of those five contests.
The addition of Diallo will further strengthen a Kansas team that already is one of the nation's best. The 6-foot-9 native of Mali is the perfect complement to senior Perry Ellis in the Kansas frontcourt because their strengths are so different.
Ellis atones for modest length and athleticism with a polished repertoire of back-to-the-basket moves and a mid-range jump shot consistent out to nearly the 3-point arc. Diallo isn't going to scare anyone if Kansas feeds him the ball in the high post or on the low block, but he runs the floor exceptionally, finishes at the rim, rebounds at both ends and uses his impressive timing and wingspan to protect the rim on defense.
The presence of Diallo enables freshman Carlton Bragg and veterans Landon Lucas and Jamari Traylor to remain in a reserve role. Diallo's defensive presence should also give Kansas' guards the security to play the passing lanes and apply increased ball pressure without fear of surrendering an uncontested layup if they get beat.
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