Memphis freshmen face eligibility hurdles

A couple of posts ago, I wrote that Memphis' freshman class could very well disintegrate before the Tigers have a chance to assemble under new coach Josh Pastner. "Disintegrate" might be too strong a word, but the underlying point has to be concerning to Memphis fans. Put simply, Pastner's recruits are struggling to get eligible.

Will Barton's case was the first, and by far the most damaging. Barton, the No. 8 overall player and No. 1 shooting guard in the class of 2010, was denied eligibility by the NCAA two weeks ago. The NCAA cited Barton's graduation from his Baltimore area high school in August 2009 before entering prep school for a year; an NCAA rule mandates incoming freshmen to graduate in eight semesters. Memphis is appealing the NCAA's decision.

The Tigers were no doubt hoping their eligibility concerns would end there, but they haven't. Freshmen Hippolyte Tsafack and Chris Crawford are both still awaiting NCAA clearance. Pastner told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal's Dan Wolken that he expects Crawford to be cleared in time for the season to start, but the delay caused both players, along with Barton, to miss the team's summer exhibition tour in the Bahamas.

Freshman Jelan Kendrick will also miss the trip. The good news is that Kendrick has already been cleared by the NCAA. The bad news is that Kendrick had to return to his home in Atlanta to deal with a "personal issue," according to Pastner. Pastner expects Kendrick, his other McDonald's All-American recruit, to be back with the team by the start of class.

All in all, it means four members of Pastner's heralded recruiting class -- including his two best recruits -- had to miss the team's trip to the Bahamas, which is a bummer for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's the Bahamas. Second of all, it leaves Memphis in the uneasy position of wondering when -- and, in Barton's case, if -- the talent recruited to rejuvenate the Tigers' basketball program is going to have a chance to do so anytime soon.

The Barton decision is bad enough. The last thing Memphis needs is a further outbreak of ineligibility.