Ineligibility loomed large for 2013 Raptors

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As the Raptors men’s team faded down the stretch of the regular season, there were certainly many issues and bad breaks to be labeled as the main catalyst. The team had a disappointing stumble of three straight losses to close the schedule, including one to rivals PGCC. The streak most definitely could’ve been turned around earlier if not for several Raptors players missing multiple games, for a variety of reasons.

Men basketball v Dundalk 07Although a few players simply missed time because of injury, (such as F Dewitt Wood III’s nagging ankle injury), there was a different issue at hand for coach James Bryson, yet just as concerning in some respects. Throughout the 2012-13 basketball season, at least three players on the squad had been ruled ineligible for competition, due to a GPA below the minimum requirements set by Montgomery College as well as the basic guidelines of MD JUCO (Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference).

According to the NJCAA, all junior college student athletes must maintain a GPA of at least 1.75 through the first 15 days after the start of the semester to begin the season eligible for competition. However, exclusively for sophomore (second year) players, the student must not only have logged at least 24 credited hours of classes, but maintained a 2.0 GPA within those classes in order to participate in a second season. However, it should be noted that all of these rules can be mere guidelines, due to the fact that every jurisdiction (such as MD JUCO) can alter their eligibility rules to how they see fit, as long as the aforementioned minimal requirements are enforced.

However, it should be noted that all of these rules can be mere guidelines, due to the fact that every jurisdiction (such as MD JUCO) can alter their eligibility rules to how they see fit, as long as the aforementioned minimal requirements are enforced.

Though it is unclear which specific eligibility rules were violated by Raptors players, records and staff had the information confirmed that forward/center Andre Gaines, forward David Brodie, and forward David Barnes had all missed at least two games due to ineligibility. According to coach Bryson, that was of a very high priority.

Bryson elaborated on those concerns just minutes after arguably the most disappointing loss of the season to the Dundalk Lions. “We have guys who simply have not taken care of business in the classroom. It’s very frustrating. You can’t win games for us if you don’t play. They need to take care of business and get back on the court.” Judging by those sentiments, academic eligibility was certainly emphasized within the Raptors’ meetings and locker room.

Moreover, the importance of players tackling their academic responsibilities was not only emphasized by the head coach, but starting point guard also Alex Chike spoke to the issue. “We are eight or nine guys deep on this team. Many guys can step up and lead us to wins. [The] problem is that we constantly rotated players in and out and we couldn’t truly get a good rhythm towards the end.”

Although academic ineligibility is indeed a sore subject within any locker room, let’s not lose sight of the fact that this Raptors squad still has basketball left to play — important basketball at that. The Raptors travel to CCAC in Allegheny March 1 at 6:00 p.m. to take part in their first game of the Region XX tournament.

This team is certainly one with growing leadership, displayed by individuals such as Chike, and all assumptions are that the men’s Raptors will be ready for tournament play. A locker room lull that cannot be ignored, however, is that this team had higher aspirations in a different tournament. Yet, in order to reach those playoff aspirations, it certainly helps to be deep and available as a roster — something the Raptors were not this season. That’s the bottom line, and the main issue.

However, Chike had a very positive, uplifting take on bumpy road to the end of the season and a shot at the main tournament. “This is all on us. It’s not on coach Bryson… not on anyone but us. We continue to improve as a group and mature together. We spend time at one others’ houses—anything it takes to get closer and better as a team.”

While we are on that positive beat, let’s make one thing perfectly clear—this happens frequently in college athletics. Very frequently. The balancing act that any student athlete is expected to handle can be a difficult grind, in fact, probably more difficult than any student non-athlete would like to admit or empathize with. Players get wrapped up in practices and film studies. The Raptors lose a tough, close game, and the players want to come back fiercer and stronger. This is natural competitive instinct. Thus, all entities involved in gameplanning and practicing are moved up on the priority list.

That mention is not a devil’s advocate perspective. It’s called college athletics. Be it junior college or the University of Kentucky, this is what can happen. Teams must be prepared.The next-man-up mentality is a must for both coaches and players. One cannot judge another’s priorities or amount of focus towards certain activities in these situations. What is important is acknowledging that this academic ineligibility was indeed a factor that went against this Raptors basketball team down the stretch, and it is completely fair to reassess the impact of these issues at season’s end.