Every time his cell phone rings, Bobby Cremins' heart rate jumps. The College of Charleston men's head basketball coach is waiting for a decision from the NCAA Eligibility Center on prized recruit Adjehi Baru.
Baru, a 6-9 shot-blocking sensation from Africa's Ivory Coast, was sought by the likes of North Carolina, Maryland and Kentucky. But he chose the College of Charleston over the major college teams that wanted him.
He attended summer school and is enrolled in the fall semester. Baru is practicing with the basketball team while the NCAA Eligibility Center determines when he will become eligible and how much eligibility he will have.
"We're expecting the answer any day. Every phone call I get, I think that might be it," Cremins said Wednesday. "He's cleared academically, but he's still under a waiver situation for his athletic eligibility."
Baru's story highlights a somewhat mysterious but much discussed component of the NCAA -- the
Eligibility Center, previously known as the NCAA Clearinghouse. Every student-athlete who participates in a Division I or II sport must submit documentation about his or her high school education to the center.
"The burden of responsibility to deal with the Eligibility Center lies with the student-athlete and the parents," said Otto German, the College of Charleston assistant athletic director for compliance. "They are the ones who have to provide (the Eligibility Center) with pertinent information that allows them to make the decision they make."
High school students who expect to compete in athletic programs at NCAA-affiliated schools are encouraged to register with the Eligibility Center at the beginning of their junior year. There is a $95 registration charge.
The student-athlete has to complete a certain number of high school core courses, earn a certain minimum grade point average in those core courses, earn a certain minimum score on the SAT or ACT, and graduate from high school.
"The NCAA Eligibility Center certifies roughly 90,000 prospective student-athletes annually," said Christopher Radford, associate director of public and media relations for the NCAA.
Coming to America
Of the 90,000 student-athletes the NCAA processes, approximately 4,000 fall into the international category, including some who may have completed a split education, part international and part in the U.S.
The NCAA carefully scrutinizes international students because of the differences in educational systems and the difficulties in obtaining proper documentation and school records.
Baru came to the U.S. and spent one high school semester each in Miami and in Maryland before meeting with the Branin family of Richmond, Va., who took him in. Baru and Patrick Branin both were stars on the Steward School basketball team and both signed with the College of Charleston.
Baru, who has a 7-5 wingspan and a 35-inch vertical leap, had a 3.54 GPA when he signed with the College of Charleston. He made an A and B in his two summer school classes at the College of Charleston.
"The foreign kids, the experiences they go through is incredible. They come to the U.S. to get a great education," Cremins said.
"Once he found the family in Richmond and went to a really good school, his whole life turned around. He's a good student. He's one of the finest young men I've ever been around. The players love him."
High school: The Steward School (Richmond, Va.)
Born and raised: Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Height/weight: 6-9, 225
Stats: 19.0 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.6 blocked shots