NCAA investigators checking eligiblity standing of UK’s Wall

Published 2:16 am Friday, October 23, 2009

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Kentucky’s John Calipari raved about the development of highly touted freshman guard John Wall Thursday morning during media day for the Southeastern Conference. Hours later, a report surfaced that his prized recruit might not be eligible to play.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive told that he believes the NCAA’s agents and amateurism group — not enforcement officials — are looking into the eligibility of both Wall and Mississippi State freshman Renardo Sidney.

‘‘Those are amateur issues that arose prior to their coming to our schools,’’ Slive said. ‘‘Those are strictly amateurism issues. As we told our people, somebody needs to determine if they are eligible. It’s not relative to you, it’s relative to them.’’

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An SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said he could not confirm the eligibility issues to The Associated Press, and Slive was not available for comment.

Kentucky spokesman DeWayne Peevy said the school had no comment, but added all players are considered eligible unless it is otherwise noted. Calipari did not respond to a text message from The Associated Press. reported that Wall’s AAU coach, Brian Clifton, was a certified agent from 2007-2008. That would constitutes Wall accepting illegal benefits from an agent under NCAA rules. If the benefits are more than $101, a student-athlete has to repay the value of the benefits and be subject to suspension for at least 10 percent of the team’s regular-season games.

Wall was one of three freshmen from the nation’s top recruiting class who were penciled in as starters for the Wildcats when their season opens Nov. 13 Morehead State.

During Thursday’s SEC media day, Calipari said Wall’s basketball skills are ahead of former Memphis stars — and current NBA players — Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans — at this stage.

‘‘John right now is probably farther along today than they were,’’ Calipari said. ‘‘Those two when they got it and they felt the offense, they were unleashed and they weren’t afraid to make The Play. When we’re in a tough game and it’s on the road, is he going to make the play that those two did? I have no idea.’’

With Wall and the other freshman, the Wildcats are picked to win the SEC.

Since arriving at Kentucky after leaving Memphis, Calipari — the highest paid college basketball coach in the country with a salary nearing $4 million per year salary — has brought renewed excitement to the Bluegrass state.

Before Thursday’s reports questioning Wall’s eligibility, Calipari had said that coaches are responsible for what goes on in their programs, but that it’s difficult to control those outside of the programs.

He stressed during Kentucky’s media day last week that the Wildcats program will be run the right way.

‘‘We will be a program rooted in integrity and run with class,’’ he said.

Calipari led Memphis to the national championship game an NCAA-record 38 wins during the 2007-08 season, but the NCAA ruled in August that the university must vacate those victories. Rose was the floor leader for that squad, but the NCAA says he was ineligible for allegedly having someone else take his SAT exam after he had failed the ACT three times.

Memphis has appealed. Calipari’s 1996 Final Four trip with Massachusetts was also erased. Calipari was not implicated in either matter.

Rose went on to become the No. 1 overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in 2008 and won the NBA rookie of the year award.

‘‘The point of this for all of us coaches is we’re all responsible,’’ Calipari said Thursday. ‘‘And I’m responsible for everything that goes on in my program. But its hard to be held accountable for everything and everybody else and what they did. But guess what? Some of the rulings say they are, so you live with it. I’m not happy about it. I’m hoping that this appeal is successful.

‘‘And I’m coaching Kentucky.’’