- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Kansas freshman Cheick Diallo has been cleared to play for the fifth-ranked Jayhawks beginning next week, ending a laborious months-long investigation by the NCAA into the five-star prospect’s education and background.

In a statement Wednesday, the NCAA ultimately ruled Diallo had received a limited amount of impermissible benefits. The result is a five-game suspension that includes four games he has already missed and the Maui Invitational title game Wednesday night against No. 19 Vanderbilt.

Diallo, a native of Mali, will be allowed to play Tuesday night against Loyola.

“I really want to thank the NCAA staff for guiding this process to a fair conclusion in what was a very complicated situation,” said Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger, who had sharply criticized the handling of the case in a letter to the NCAA earlier this month.

The 6-foot-9 Diallo has been allowed to practice with Kansas, but he’d been barred from playing in games while the NCAA examined coursework from Our Savior New American, a prep school in New York. His relationship with his guardian, Tidiane Drame, was also questioned.

The NCAA said that Kansas officials provided new information last week, days after the letter from Zenger to NCAA vice president Oliver Luck surfaced. Included was an independent review of Diallo’s coursework that helped the NCAA Eligibility Center render its decision.

“Our goal is to have eligibility decisions made prior to the start of a student-athlete’s season,” Luck said in the statement. “However, this was a complicated case involving international transcripts and a high school that remains under review. Additionally, staff considered a complex set of circumstances regarding amateurism.”

The NCAA did not disclose what benefits Diallo received, nor did it respond to the scathing critique that Zenger offered in his nearly six-page letter dated Nov. 10.

Zenger wrote that Kansas officials found “serious and legitimate misrepresentations attributed to NCAA process, unfounded verbal statements and inadequate professional standards” during the investigation. Zenger also lambasted the pace of the inquiry and lamented the lack of cooperation the school received from the governing body’s Eligibility Center.

Diallo’s case became a touch-point for discussing the role the NCAA has in examining the academic background of prospective student-athletes. Many have argued that schools are better-equipped to decide what coursework should count toward eligibility.

Then there’s the on-the-court ramifications of Diallo’s decision.

Even though he’s only played the game for about five years, Diallo is considered one of the NBA’s top prospects. His raw offense is offset by never-quit energy and some ferocious rebounding, two traits that could be key to the Jayhawks making another Final Four run.

Kansas fans certainly knew what was at stake. Whether the Jayhawks were playing on campus at Allen Fieldhouse or in the Lahaina Civic Center for the Maui Invitational, fans’ chants of “Free Diallo” had become the soundtrack to the start of the season.

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