There has been much speculation about Kentucky’s scholarship situation, or the shortness thereof, in the media, especially at the websites of rivals. Consider this from the Duke Basketball Report:
After Tuesday night’s game, Calipari reportedly was non-commital about the return of former State guard Ryan Harrow, which brings up an interesting point: although Kentucky’s Web site doesn’t identify walk-ons, at the moment, they are committed to 17 players for next season.
One thing seems likely: given the logjam at his position, if he wants clear minutes, Julius Randle will pick a different school later Wednesday, particularly since Andrew Wiggins has not made his decision yet either.
This is wrong in more ways than one, of course – Randle did come to Kentucky in spite of DBR’s attempt to dissuade him, and it remains quite possible, even likely, that Andrew Wiggins will join him. Understandably, our rivals will be looking to twist this into a Bad Thing to help alleviate their obvious concern at such a UK juggernaut.
So why did Randle come with all the players available in UK's front court? As we have seen before, the best players do not fear competing for time, and Calipari fearlessly recruits over everybody -- that's part of the deal. You want to play for Kentucky? Earn the spot, or get comfortable on the pine. I promise you, that's what he's thinking for next year.
Kentucky currently has only ten players on scholarship, of which two are graduating and one almost certainly entering the draft. That would leave UK currently one over the limit, but that’s not a problem now. Here’s the bottom line from Ben Roberts:
Even if all three freshmen and Harrow return for next season, John Calipari would still have wiggle room to give out one more scholarship, which could go to Wiggins, Gordon or Hawkins.
We’ve already discussed this at length, of course, so readers of this space are fully briefed on the possibilities. All this assumes that Nerlens Noel will go to the NBA, and nobody I know seriously believes he is entertaining a return to Kentucky.
Let me throw in a couple of other wrinkles. Those of you thinking Harrow will transfer, let me suggest that it isn’t likely. The NCAA has a "five years to play four" rule that, as a general principle, allows for one transfer year in residence to act as a substitute for a red-shirt season.
Harrow has two more years of eligibility currently left, so if he were to transfer, he would still be required to serve a year in residence, and that would count as a year of eligibility due to the NCAA’s 5/4 rule. Harrow enrolled in 2010, so absent an NCAA waiver, his eligibility absolutely expires in 2015.
The transfer rule is currently under review by the NCAA, but it is a tough nut to crack because schools are rightly concerned about tampering and the problems a revolving transfer door can create for their APR. The proposed changes to the transfer rule look like this, via John Infante:
Athletes would still need to get permission to contact another school before transferring. But permission would be tied to practice and competition, not athletics aid. So even if permission was denied, the student-athlete would still be able to receive a scholarship.
Athletes who qualify for the transfer exemption in the APR would be permitted to play immediately at the new school. That would make a 2.600 GPA the magic number to play immediately.
Athletes who do not qualify to play immediately at the next school would still receive an extension of their five-year clock so they can use all their eligibility.
Tampering with an athlete by another school would be considered a severe breach of conduct, a Level I violation, the highest in the NCAA’s new enforcement structure.
Obviously, that would solve Harrow's transfer problem, but even if this does come to pass, it won’t help Harrow. The earliest it could be implemented is August of 2014, which is about one year too late for him.
So despite the talk of Harrow being "encouraged" to move on, this seems pretty unlikely. He may ultimately decide that one more year of playing is better than being buried on the bench at UK for two, but keep in mind that Kentucky doesn’t really have a true backup point guard in the 2013 class as of right now, other than Polson.
Now, I know some of you would prefer to run off Harrow regardless of the consequences to him and give his scholarship to Dominique Hawkins or Jarrod Polson. I suspect, though, that isn’t going to happen. It could, but Calipari isn’t really known for tossing a kid who is up against the wall under the bus, and right now, that’s where Ryan Harrow is. More likely, Calipari will look for Harrow to assure him of his intentions, and if he isn't satisfied, he might well ask him to move on or walk on. Hey, life is like that sometimes -- if you can't live up to the coach's expectations, you have no reason to expect a ride. However, I think Harrow will accept Calipari's conditions and return. We'll see.
Scholarship-wise, if nobody other than Noel goes, there will be a crunch, especially if we take another player, i.e. Andrew Wiggins, but relief is more likely, in my opinion, to come from Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson, or one of the other players deciding to go ahead and enter the draft.
One more thing: If Wiggins does decide to go elsewhere (I'm assuming we won't get Aaron Gordon with Randle on board), don't be surprised if Calipari offers a scholarship to Hawkins. Yes, he'll likely have to move a player or two off scholarship, but don't expect one of them to be Harrow. It could be, but in my opinion, it isn't likely.