BOISE — The Boise State men’s basketball team is hoping to learn soon about the status of Arizona transfer Emmanuel Akot for the upcoming season.
Akot and the Broncos remain optimistic that the 6-foot-7 wing player will be granted a waiver for immediate eligibility. Word from the NCAA on a decision could come down at any point.
“We don’t know yet,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said earlier this week.
Boise State seemingly has a strong case due to the FBI investigation into the college basketball bribery scandal going on at Akot’s previous school. Former Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson is currently sitting in a federal prison for his role in the scandal.
Having Akot this year would be a game changer for Boise State. The former five-star prospect was ranked as the No. 24 overall player in the 2017 recruiting class by 247Sports when he signed with Arizona over offers from Oregon, Louisville, Virginia Tech and several other high-major programs.
Whenever he suits up for Boise State, he’ll be the highest-ranked prep prospect ever to play for the Broncos, topping Chandler Hutchison — who went on to be a first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
But the timetable of his debut remains unclear, which will soon make things difficult for Rice and the Broncos as they get closer to the start of the regular season. Boise State held its first official practice on Tuesday.
“There’s a lot up in the air,” Rice admitted. “When a guy like that is on the fence … I don’t think it’s that big of a deal for the next couple weeks, but pretty soon you have to start slicing things up and figuring out who is going to be out there, so hopefully (they’ll get an answer) sooner rather than later.”
Boise State will be without Oregon transfer Abu Kigab for the first semester following his transfer last winter. He’ll be eligible starting Dec. 14 against Alabama State. That makes dividing up the practice reps even tougher not knowing Akot’s status.
“That’s a little bit tricky,” Rice said. “Both those guys can really contribute and I expect if both of them were playing they would have huge roles.”
Akot started 11 games for Arizona as a sophomore last season before announcing in January he would leave the team and transfer. He’s an elite defender that has improved offensively since arriving at Boise State. He’s one of the most athletic players on Boise State’s roster, and would no doubt make a big impact if eligible.
“If we don’t get him we’ll have to deal with it, but hopefully we do get him,” guard Marcus Dickinson said. “He’s going to be a big part of this team and our success in the future, so hopefully we do get him.”
Players are transferring at a record rate these days, and more and more are applying for immediate eligibility. Current rules call for a player to sit out a year of competition if they transfer from another Division I school — unless they have a good enough reason to be granted a waiver.
Iowa State learned Tuesday that Penn State transfer Rasir Bolton’s waiver request was granted and he’ll be immediately eligible this season. Colorado State had its waiver approved earlier this summer for VCU transfer PJ Byrd.
Others, including Villanova transfer Jahvon Quinerly at Alabama, Kentucky transfer Jemari Baker at Arizona and Marquette transfer Joey Hauser at Michigan State, are still waiting to hear back on their attempts for immediate eligibility.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said earlier this week the school is considering applying for a waiver for Arkansas transfer Gabe Osabuohien.
“If you have seemingly any reason whatsoever, you can get a waiver now,” Huggins told the local media in Morgantown. “It doesn’t take a lot. There’s such an emphasis on individual rights that I don’t think (the NCAA) wants that challenged anymore.
“I think generally we’re at a time where they want to be known as helping people achieve their goals and not holding them back, which they were accused of before. It honestly is a new time.”
Other schools within the Mountain West including UNLV have applied to get players immediately eligible as well.
It’s unclear whether Arizona would put up a fight in trying to keep Akot from being eligible at Boise State, and that sometimes is the determining factor.
Akot spoke to the Idaho Press in May when he committed to Boise State and at that point felt he had a strong case to take to the NCAA.
“I don’t really know about the chances, but I’m hoping the NCAA can grant me my waiver and I can play this year,” Akot said in May. “I think it’s very possible I could be playing next year but we’re going to have to wait and see.”