Texas Tech basketball: Red Raiders still hope Joel Ntambwe can play this year

After submitting another waiver to the NCAA, the Texas Tech basketball program is hopeful that UNLV transfer Joel Ntambwe will be able to play this season.

One of the reasons that the Texas Tech basketball team has been so small this season is because a player they were counting on to provide some length and size inside, Joel Ntambwe, was denied a waiver for immediate eligibility last month.   But there remains a possibility that he could suit up for the Red Raiders this season after the university filed a reconsideration appeal on Ntambwe’s behalf.

On his weekly radio show, The Kirby Hocutt Show (heard every Wednesday at noon on 97.3 FM in Lubbock and Doublet973.com) Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt confirmed that the university was expecting to hear word from the NCAA soon when it pertains to Ntambwe’s appeal.

“There’s a reconsideration process that is provided through the NCAA on a situation like Joel’s and we’re in that reconsideration process,” Hocutt said.  “Obviously, it’s gone on way too long.  Obviously, there’s frustrations and challenges with the transfer process, the appeal process, it’s got to get to a better place.

“But all the being said, yes, there is a reconsideration process (that’s what it’s officially called) and we’re in the final stages of that.  We hope to know within the next five to seven days…”

The strife surrounding the denial of Ntambwe’s initial waiver surrounds the fact that he was the only player of five who transferred from UNLV this offseason to be denied immediate eligibility after the Rebels made a head coaching change.  It is obvious that UNLV’s bad blood over the fact that Chris Beard left Vegas after two weeks as head coach in the spring of 2016 to take the job at Texas Tech is still leading to resentment from that school to the point that they fought against Ntambwe’s waiver.

This drew outrage from people outside of the Texas Tech or even Big 12 sphere who found the decision unfair to the student-athlete.  One prominent figure who spoke out on behalf of Ntambwe is ESPN’s Jay Bilas.

After the initial ruling, Bilas Tweeted, “Joel Ntambwe transferred from UNLV to Texas Tech, but the NCAA will not grant Ntambwe a waiver. Yet, the NCAA granted waivers to all of his transferring UNLV teammates! NCAA transfer policy is a joke. What purpose is served by making players sit? None.”

Of course, the good folks in Vegas took a much different stance on the decision.

“We’ve taken a stance on the waivers of pretty much the guys that were essentially run off the program, we’ve supported all those,” UNLV head coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “Beyond that, we support the decisions that the NCAA makes and how they go about going through that process and kind of leave it in their hands. Joel wasn’t run off the team, so we supported the NCAA in the findings that they have.”

Make no mistake, there’s good reason why UNLV wanted the 6-foot-8 sophomore to stay.  As a true freshman, he averaged 11.8 points 5.5 rebounds per game and started at both small and power forward at times.  He shot 40.9% from the floor and 38.6% from 3-point range.

He was so good last year that he actually went through the NBA Draft evaluation process before returning to the NCAA ranks.  Thus, it is believed that he will eventually be an NBA player before his eligibility is exhausted.

It would be a tremendous boost to the Red Raiders if they could add his scoring punch as well as his size in the paint to a team that ass at times struggled in both aspects of the game.  If the NCAA does reverse its decision and Ntambwe is granted a waiver, he will play immediately and the Red Raiders will once again be a serious Big 12 and National Title contender.

Fans looking for hope that this could eventually work out in Texas Tech’s favor need to look at what just transpired in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Earlier this week, Tennessee learned that 7-foot center Uros Plavsic had been ruled eligible after being initially denied a waiver by the NCAA last fall.

Will the NCAA come to its senses and rule Ntambwe eligible?  Of course, we all hope that will be the case.  There’s no need for a school like UNLV to have the right to punish a player simply because of a 3-year-old grudge against a former employee.  When Beard jolted the Rebels for Tech, Ntambwe was sitting through high school algebra classes but now, he’s the one whose future is being put on hold.

Next: What you need to know about Joel Ntambwe

Everyone in Lubbock will be waiting to find out if the NCAA finally comes to its collective senses on this issue and does right by the player, not the school with a petty grievance…the school that fired the man who recruited Ntambwe to campus in the first place.  Of course, given what we’ve seen over the years from the NCAA, we won’t be holding our breath.

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