On April 28, the day Cheick Diallo signed with Kansas, Bill Self called it a “huge day” for his basketball program. Diallo, a 6-foot-9 McDonald’s All-American big man, was the inside presence that Self sought, a centerpiece of a three-man recruiting class that could help the Jayhawks stay atop the Big 12 and take the next step after consecutive early NCAA Tournament losses.
More than three months later, though, Diallo has yet to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center, formerly known as the NCAA Clearinghouse. The issue puts his basketball-playing future at Kansas in question.
Self, this week, declined to expand on the details of the eligibility issue. Diallo has yet to be cleared, Self said, reiterating what he said in mid-July, and the school is still waiting for a ruling from the NCAA.
“I don’t anticipate this being cleared up in the near future,” Self told The Star.
Self remains hopeful, and it’s not uncommon for freshman basketball players to be waiting on the NCAA Eligibility Center at this point. Still, the stakes are high.
The eligibility questions appear to focus Diallo’s time at Our Savior New American School, a private high school in Centereach, N.Y., a town of 31,000 on Long Island. Diallo, a native of Mali, attended the school after coming to the United States to pursue a college basketball career.
According to the NCAA Eligibility Center's high school portal, Our Savior New American is “under an extended evaluation period.”
From the NCAA Eligibility Center website: “This program is under an extended evaluation period to determine if it meets the academic requirements for NCAA cleared status. During this evaluation period, the courses listed below may be subject to further review on a case-by-case basis, which will require additional academic documentation.”
Diallo’s AAU coach, Terrence “Munch” Williams, said Diallo was a solid and conscientious student in high school. One of Diallo’s high school teammates, Davon Dillard, reportedly had issues getting through the NCAA Eligibility Center as well. Dillard, who previously committed to California, is now at Oklahoma State.
Our Savior New American principal Dolores Reade did not respond to voicemails and emails from The Star.
Our Savior New American was founded in the early 1990s and has become known for its basketball program, which is often filled with international players. The school has regularly sent players to Division I programs, including former St. John’s center Chris Obekpa. According to the school’s website, the school sends 76 percent of its graduates to four-year colleges and another 15 percent to two-year schools. The school has sent graduates to a list of top schools on the East Coast, including New York University, Boston College, Boston University and Davidson College, among others.
If a ruling does not come soon, the status of Diallo could cloud Kansas’ preseason. After representing the United States and winning gold at the World University Games in July — a tournament that Diallo was not eligible for as a non-U.S. citizen — the Jayhawks will likely be ranked somewhere in the top 10 of the preseason polls this fall. Diallo, a consensus top-10 recruit, is expected to join a returning core of Perry Ellis, Frank Mason and Wayne Selden, providing an athletic rim-protector and an anchor in the paint.
“We feel like we’ve been able to sign a premier big man that has as much upside as any big we’ve recruited in recent memory,” Self said after Diallo chose Kansas. “… He’ll bring a toughness and aggressiveness to our program.”
Diallo, who has been accepted by KU’s admissions office, arrived in Lawrence in early July and enrolled in Kansas’ second summer-school session. He has completed six credit hours, Self said.
It’s not unusual for the NCAA Eligibility Center process to drag on into September and October. Former Kansas guard Brandon Rush wasn’t ruled eligible to play college basketball until early September by what was then called the NCAA Clearinghouse. Four years ago, KU freshmen Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor were deemed as partial qualifiers, and Kansas, after exhausting the appeals process, didn’t reveal their status until October. As partial qualifiers, McLemore and Traylor were forced to sit out for one season, but were allowed to practice during the second semester.
KU begins fall semester classes on Aug. 24. The Jayhawks’ annual Late Night in the Phog season tip-off is Oct. 9.
“He’s done everything that’s been asked of him to do,” Self said of Diallo. “He’s just waiting to be cleared.”