Star UNLV freshman OK to play

Few things excite a fan base like the addition of an elite, top-10 recruit; freshmen of that caliber cause widespread epidemics of optimism. They are rebirth personified. But few things can be more deflating for a fan base than learning that such a player, despite all his talent on the court, isn't eligible off it. The NCAA clearinghouse says the player doesn't have the grades or the courses or the academic standards required to compete, and the player goes on the shelf for up to a year, a "partial qualifier" who can practice and get started on studies but can't actually, you know, play basketball. How anti-climactic is that?

Fortunately for UNLV fans, they won't have to live out that bummer of a scenario in 2012-13. On Thursday, UNLV coach Dave Rice told the Las Vegas Sun that freshman Anthony Bennett -- the program's best recruit since Jerry Tarkanian was in charge -- received the NCAA Eligibility Center go-ahead and will indeed be eligible to compete this fall:

"We're excited for Anthony, but we're also very excited for our team," Rice said. "A lot of credit goes to (compliance director) Eric Toliver and (student-athlete academic services director) David Jackson for their hard work in the waiver process."

Bennett had been waiting to hear word on his status for much of the summer. The rest of UNLV's incoming freshmen began classwork in the school's third summer session on July 9, according to the Sun. This isn't all rosy news: Bennett wasn't able to enroll by the July 10 cutoff, and the timing of the NCAA's decision could prevent Bennett from joining his teammates on UNLV's foreign trip to Canada in August. NCAA rules require incoming freshmen to be enrolled in classes in order to participate in foreign trips. And the trip in question just so happens to be a sojourn to Bennett's native Canada. (He attended Findlay Prep but hails from Ontario originally.)

UNLV's academics staff is hoping to get Bennett caught up in time to allow him to have the foreign tour experience, not to mention begin playing alongside teammates in live competition. But that's the most ideal scenario. Really, the upshot here is that UNLV and its fans can go into this fall without having to worry about their most highly touted recruit in a generation not being eligible to by the start of the season. Minor complications aside, that counts as very good news.