Four players didn’t play in the men’s basketball team’s first preseason game against Sonoma State on Nov. 3.
Senior God’sgift Achiuwa, junior Orlando Sanchez and sophomore Marco Bourgault sat on the sidelines in sweatsuits, while Felix Balamou didn’t see playing time despite wearing a uniform. According to head coach Steve Lavin, all four players were dealing with different decisions regarding eligibility.
“With Gift and Felix, we’re trying to figure whether or not we would redshirt them for different reasons,” Lavin said. “With Marco and Orlando, we’re just waiting for a ruling on their eligibility.”
For Achiuwa and Balamou, their redshirt status is not yet determined, but due to a recent NCAA rule change, once a player sees time on the floor in a game, he can no longer redshirt for that season.
“If they play five seconds in an exhibition game it wipes the year out,” Lavin said. “We have to be mindful of that.”
In the case of Sanchez and Bourgault, St. John’s is awaiting words from NCAA officials which can take up to two weeks.
“We expect to hear in the next week or so,” Lavin said. “Everything has been submitted so now they kind of evaluate the case that’s been submitted so they give you a choice within a certain amount of time.”
Lavin said that with Sanchez, it comes down to rules involving age and eligibility. The complications occur because Sanchez, who is 24, is supposed to be grandfathered into a previous NCAA rule according to St. John’s. For Bourgault, Lavin said that “it’s about being reinstated.”
In the meantime, the Red Storm were forced to play with seven men in their first contest of the new season. It was a sight that was familiar to the returning players who dealt with that situation through all of last season.
“We knew about Marco and Orlando, but today we found out about Gift,” sophomore Phil Greene said. “It was a surprise, but we had to stick together and play through it.”
While Bourgault’s and Sanchez’s decisions hinge on the NCAA’s response, Lavin stated that Achiuwa and Balamou will not play in Tuesday’s exhibition against Concordia. Their outcome, however, will be sometime next week in time for the regular season opener against Detroit on Nov. 13. The decisions of the NCAA could make a difference regarding the redshirt decision.
“There’s a number of moving parts as we kind of look at and assess our personnel choices we’re going to make based on the determination the NCAA comes up with,” Lavin said. “That will have an influence in what we do in terms of Felix and Gift.