Waithe caught in web of rule changes

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:59 AM ET

Marvell Waithe's world has been turned upside down.

Ideally, one of Canada's top hoopster would be attending classes and working out with the men's basketball team at Chicago-Loyola after signing a letter of intent.

Instead, the Laurier Collegiate graduate has been forced to return home to Toronto, a victim of the NCAA's revolving door of guidelines many believe smacks of anti-Canadianism.

All the while, Waithe says a prayer for fallen friend, Sam Ashaolu. On Waithe's final recruiting visit this past spring, he and Ashaolu were feted by officials at Duquesne.

"What happened to Sam is just crazy," Waithe said. "That could have been me and I think about that each day. I pray every day that God blesses him."

Not that Waithe needed any perspective, the kid is as down to earth as any high level athlete one will meet, but the weekend shooting at Duquesne University has put his ordeal in a different light.

Waithe thought he had the necessary core courses to play NCAA basketball. Guidance counsellors assured him, authorities at Loyola gave their blessings and Waithe himself figured every detail was finalized.

He enrolled in summer school, only to find out the NCAA's clearing house would not give its approval.

Lawyers got involved, emails were exchanged, confusion began to reign and Waithe wondered what went awry.

"When I got back to Toronto, everyone had this perception that I did something wrong," Waithe said. "I couldn't go to the mall without someone saying: 'What happened?'"

Waithe and Loyola can't discern what happened.

Canadian kids pining to play whatever sport south of the border, Waithe now says with the clarity of hindsight, need to know the rules governing NCAA eligibility.

In a nutshell, 14 core courses must be attained. In Waithe's case, he thought he had the mandated number, but the rules changed and courses that were once deemed necessary were suddenly rendered redundant.

Loyola has launched three appeals, while calls and complaints to the NCAA have fallen on deaf ears.

"I have a lot of respect for the people at Loyola," Waithe said. "I just feel the NCAA's clearing house gives Canadians a hard time. Each case is different, but I know I worked hard academically to become an above-average student. What everyone should know is that Canadians have to work 10 times harder. The NCAA sets a bar and you aim for it. I aimed higher and look at what happened to me."

Waithe is taking correspondence courses, works on his game and body and will play club ball this fall.

When word leaked of Waithe's situation, Division I programs came calling as the whole recruiting process was suddenly renewed.

"I'm a stronger person through this entire experience," Waithe said. "I just have to be patient."


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