NCAA grants Cincinnati's Aziz Bandaogo immediate eligibility | Zagsblog
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Wednesday / February 28.
  • NCAA grants Cincinnati’s Aziz Bandaogo immediate eligibility

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    By DYLAN LUTEY

    On Monday, the NCAA granted Cincinnati center Aziz Bandaogo eligibility after his initial mental health waiver and appeal was denied. 

    Bandaogo, a native of Senegal, cited his poor mental health caused by his former head coach Mark Madsen and several teammates leaving Utah Valley as the reason he believed he deserved eligibility. He expressed his displeasure with the NCAA in a statement on Nov. 10 when he learned his appeal was initially denied.

    “Mental health challenges are real and can happen to anyone,” he said. “Moving to another country and learning another culture is obviously not easy and having a strong support system is key to coping when challenges occur. One of the main reasons I chose to attend Cincinnati was its closeness to my American family. Also, I was most comfortable with the Cincinnati coaches who talked deeply with me about the importance of mental health.” 

    Fast forward to Monday, the NCAA was set to finalize their decision to deny the appeal, but when they received new info from the school they ultimately reversed their ruling. This marks a happy ending to a tough month for Bandaogo who expressed relief, excitement, and appreciation.

    “It’s been a very challenging month for me,” Bandaogo said in a statement sent to ESPN. “I want to thank the University of Cincinnati, the administration, our president and athletic Director, my coaching staff and especially my Head Coach Wes Miller, for being there for me and supporting me through the hard times I have been dealing with. I’m very grateful for all the support and effort. I can’t wait to officially step on the court and represent the University of Cincinnati.”

    The 7-foot center also released a statement through the school.

    “The day I have long dreamt of has finally come,” he said. “I am grateful that the NCAA has reconsidered my case and granted my immediate eligibility. I am most thankful for my teammates, our coaching staff, administration and fans for continuously supporting me. Ohio is my American home away from home. I cannot wait to make my Cincinnati debut and give this program everything I have. Go Bearcats!”

    Head coach Wes Miller is thrilled to have last year’s 3rd-best shot-blocker (2.9 BPG) in college basketball and WAC defensive player of the year, in his rotation.

    “I’m thrilled for Aziz Bandaogo and can’t wait to have him play for us here at the University of Cincinnati this season,” Miller said in a statement released by the school. This process has been incredibly tough on Aziz and our whole team and I’m glad he can now focus on being the best student-athlete he can be for the Bearcats. We appreciate the NCAA for reconsidering his case, and ultimately coming to this decision. I want to thank John Cunningham, President Pinto and the many people at the University of Cincinnati who supported Aziz during this process.” 

    In addition to Bandaogo, the Bearcats are still waiting on a decision for UCF transfer Jamille Reynolds who started his career off at Rutgers before transferring to the Knights and is now also looking to be eligible after transferring for a second time. Miller also addressed that in his statement.

    “Unfortunately, we still have another young man who is waiting to hear back from the NCAA on his waiver for immediate eligibility,” he said. “Our hope is the NCAA will do the right thing in Jamille Reynolds’ case, as well.”

    Miller hopes to eventually have the pair of centers both be deemed eligible, but for now he at least gets to plug one of them in his rotation. Bandaogo had a breakout season last year with Utah Valley averaging 11.5 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks after spending two years with Akron.

    The 7-foot center will get ready to make his debut for the 4-0 Bearcats on Wednesday when they take on Georgia Tech (2-1) at home.

    Photo: (Courtesy of UVU Athletics)

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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