Evan Battey has been in this situation before.
That doesn’t make it any more frustrating, however. And that feeling of frustration seemingly is being felt doubly so by Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle.
On Thursday, Boyle announced that freshman forward Evan Battey has been ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA for the 2017-18 season. Battey will take a redshirt year and will be unable to travel with the team, though he will be allowed to practice. The 6-foot-8 forward will retain all four years of eligibility.
Boyle made it clear the decision was forced upon him by the NCAA, and that he planned to have all five of his freshmen in the mix this season. Given some of the headline-grabbing issues swirling over college basketball, Boyle also made it clear the situation isn’t anything he is happy about.
“I’ve been coaching Division I basketball now for 24 years. I’m not sure I’ve ever been around a kid who’s probably more ready academically and athletically to play,” Boyle said. “It’s not a decision I agree with. We went through the waiver process and we lost the waiver. It’s extremely disappointing. The people that were on that waiver committee missed the boat on this one. They have no idea what kind of kid Evan Battey is.
“It’s a little bit ironic to me with all the things that are going on in college basketball. North Carolina academic scandal, they lawyer up and fight the NCAA for two years and they win on a technicality. They get off scot-free. There’s an FBI investigation going on. There’s four assistant coaches that have been arrested by the FBI. As of today, nothing has happened to those four schools. No ramifications for those sorts of things. But you have a kid who struggled a little bit when he was 13-years old in the classroom due to a lot of personal and family issues he was dealing with at the time, and he gets stuck sitting out this year.”
The issue’s origin traces back half a decade ago when Battey repeated the ninth grade, setting off a chain of events when he was 13-years old that still are causing ramifications. Battey, a native of View Park, Calif., was forced to sit out his senior season at Villa Park High School last year due to the same issue, and the NCAA declared he was ineligible because he did not graduate high school within the four years required for immediate eligibility.
Boyle said they were aware this could be a hurdle from the moment they started recruiting Battey. Yet that didn’t make the final ruling any less aggravating.
“He got back on track, and Evan Battey gets punished and North Carolina gets off scot-free. And so are the four schools and coaches indicted by the FBI,” Boyle said. “I’m not sure where the justice is in that. That’s for other people to decide. But I’m extremely disappointed.”
While Battey has overcome a sprained ankle suffered late in the summer to sport the look of a player ready to contribute immediately, he instead will have to shift his focus for the upcoming season. Given he spent much of last year serving as a sort of player-coach at Villa Park, it’s not necessarily uncharted waters for Battey. And, basketball-wise, there are plenty of positive spins for Battey and the Buffs.
The big man will be able to hone his hulking physique in the weight room while Tory Miller-Stewart, Lucas Siewert, and Dallas Walton man the frontcourt. With Miller-Stewart set to graduate, Battey could very well step into a starting role in 2018-19 with a full four years of eligibility. And breaking up the 2017 freshman quintet with Battey’s graduation getting bumped back a year will give Boyle a little more balance in his scholarship allotments down the road.
“I know that I can help this team off the floor better than anyone else in the entire country, because I have experience doing it before last year,” Battey said. “It’s unfortunate. I’m still having to pay for setbacks from when I was struggling at 13-years old as a 19-year old today. It’s also unfortunate that I got punished last year and I’m again being punished this year. I’ll take it with a grain of salt and just learn from it and move on.”