LOUISVILLE — Although he considers Enes Kanter an amateur, Kentucky Coach John Calipari said Thursday that he can't be sure whether the NCAA agrees. Kanter's eligibility for the upcoming season will depend on whether the NCAA officially views him as an amateur.
The NCAA Eligibility Center is reviewing Kanter's status. He played for a professional team in his native Turkey, Fenerbahce Ulker. Earlier this year, The New York Times quoted the team's general manager as saying Kanter and his family received benefits totalling between $100,000 and $150,000 in a three-year period.
"He's just going through the process and review," Calipari said when asked about Kanter's status. "I thought something could be done by now. Obviously, it has not."
When asked for the odds of Kanter gaining his eligibility, Calipari said, "I have no idea."
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After a pause, the UK coach added, "Well, in my mind, the kid's an amateur. He never signed anything. How they rule that thing, you have no idea. I don't anyway."
Calipari spoke to reporters before attending the annual University of Kentucky Basketball Tip-Off Dinner here.
"He's a great kid," Calipari said of Kanter. "He's doing well in school."
When asked whether it was difficult dealing with this unknown, Calipari noted that UK went through the same amateurism limbo a year ago with John Wall. Ultimately, the NCAA ordered Wall to repay less than $800 in recruiting-related expenses he received from Brian Clifton, the player's summer coach and a certified agent. Wall gained his eligibility after sitting out an exhibition game and the season's opener.
The money associated with the Kanter case is much higher.
In noting that Kanter has been patiently waiting for an NCAA decision, Calipari hinted broadly that Fenerbahce Ulker had an ulterior motive in cooperating with the NCAA. The team provided the NCAA with bank and housing records that presumably support its contention of giving Kanter and his family more than $100,000 in benefits.
If Kanter cannot play for Kentucky and chooses to return to Fenerbahce Ulker, the team gets a player generally considered a lock to be picked in the 2011 NBA Draft. If Kanter played for another European team, Fenerbahce Ulker would be owed compensation.
If Kanter plays for Kentucky, Fenerbahce Ulker gets nothing.
"One side wants him back," Calipari said in reference to the Turkish pro team. "There's four million reasons they want him back."
When asked why UK recruited Kanter instead of another player with less serious roadblocks to eligibility, Calipari had a quick reply.
"We did," he said. "We got Eloy."
Eloy Vargas, a native of the Dominican Republic who began his college career at Florida, joined UK this fall semester after gaining his junior college degree in the summer.
As for recruiting Kanter, UK made that move "because he was an amateur," Calipari said.
"He's doing fine with it," Calipari said of the questions swirling around Kanter. "Hopefully, he'll be able to play."
As for the team, Calipari said:
■ "Eloy is better than we thought. And he's bigger than Enes."
■ The team is further ahead than last season's team at this time of year. "Because of the Canadian trip."
■ "(DeAndre) Liggins is just an animal defensively."
■ Terrence Jones participated in three-fourths of a recent practice, meaning he is well on the way to recovery from various injuries. "When you put him in the mix, we become a little different. You're talking about a 6-9 playmaker."