I received an email from a reader named Mike last week who posed a question I’ve heard from a few people.
“Could you explain to me how Check Diallo would still be eligible to play basketball at KU even if he pulls out of NBA draft … ” Mike wrote. “It is my understanding that he has not been on campus since shortly after basketball season ended. If he hasn’t been on campus he obviously hasn’t been attending classes. If he hasn’t been attending classes l find it highly doubtful his grades would allow him to play.”
At the KU basketball banquet last week, KU coach Bill Self reported that Diallo was training in South Carolina, which makes this question valid. How does it work when players leave campus early to pursue professional opportunities?
I talked to Paul Buskirk, KU’s associate athletic director for student-athlete support. The short answer is KU Athletics says it prepares for this type of situation.
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Here are the official NCAA guidelines: Student-athletes must take 24 hours of college credit over their first year. At least 18 of those hours have to come in the fall and spring combined, and at least six must be in the spring semester.
From the day Diallo came to campus last summer, Buskirk said the athletic department planned on the possibility Diallo might be a one-and-done. That oftentimes means enrolling players like Diallo in online classes.
“That is a godsend to keeping flexibility to our students in multiple sports when it comes to getting things done at the end of the semester,” Buskirk said.
Oftentimes, an athlete may be enrolled in 12 or 15 hours in the spring semester, but as long as six hours are completed (and 24 for the year), the student is considered to be in good academic standing.
That’s important for KU as well. The NCAA’s Academic Progress Rates were released Wednesday, and if a player such as Diallo leaves school in poor academic standing (meaning he wouldn’t be eligible to play the next season if he came back), that counts against KU’s APR.
Because the KU men’s basketball team finished with a perfect 1,000 one-year APR score in nine of the last 10 seasons, we can assume nearly every player with a situation like Diallo’s has completed the necessary coursework to remain in good academic standing.
KU offers other course options that can benefit athletes in Diallo’s situation. Some “short courses” run only the first eight weeks and are completed by mid-March.
The athletic department also can monitor a player’s academic progress. Each player signs a release that allows KU Athletics officials to contact instructors to ensure coursework is getting completed, and athletes also have access to long-distance tutoring sessions, which are often completed over Skype or Facetime.
In short, new course offerings and improved technology have made it more manageable for KU athletes pursuing professional careers away from campus.
“For a student to leave for a period of time used to be an agony physically,” Buskirk said. “It’s no longer an agony for us, because we can monitor these things long distance and get coursework done from afar.”