NCAA reduces Morris' suspension to 14 games

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky center Randolph Morris' season-long suspension for his attempt to enter the NBA draft was reduced to 14 games Thursday by the NCAA.

The NCAA cited new information for softening its punishment after Morris tried to go into the draft. Additional information provided by the school showed Morris clearly intended to retain his collegiate eligibility while declaring for the draft, the NCAA said in a statement.

The new information "provides additional understanding of Morris' original intent to enter the NBA draft as well as his mind-set during that process," the NCAA said.

Morris, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, also must repay expenses related to the tryouts -- which amounted to more than $7,000 from nine NBA teams, the NCAA said.

"In exploring my NBA options, I made poor choices," Morris said. "Those choices included accepting bad advice while putting distance between me and my coaches and teammates at UK. I take full responsibility for those actions.

"It wasn't obvious to me as I was going through this process, but looking back, I now see how my actions were disrespectful to
Coach [Tubby] Smith and the University of Kentucky. Playing basketball at the University of Kentucky is a privilege that few athletes get to enjoy. I intend to make the most of this opportunity to be a part of the greatest basketball program in America."

Kentucky provided the NCAA the original fax sent by Morris to Smith, notifying the coach of his plans to enter the
draft. In the one-paragraph fax -- released by the university Thursday -- Morris told Smith that "my intent is not to obtain an
agent so as to maintain my collegiate eligibility."

Smith said he had misplaced the fax and found it only last week.

Morris will miss all of Kentucky's nonconference games, including a showdown with No. 4 Louisville on Saturday, but he will be
available for the Southeastern Conference opener Jan. 10 against Vanderbilt.

He may continue to practice with the Wildcats in the interim and will have two years of eligibility remaining after this season.

"Based on all the information we had and all the extenuating circumstances, both Randolph and we have been very patient waiting
for this opportunity," Smith said. "I'm very happy for Randolph, his family and our basketball program."

The Wildcats (6-3) have struggled with their inside game without Morris. Smith has rotated 7-footers -- Shagari Alleyne, Lukasz Obrzut and Jared Carter -- and used a smaller starting lineup without a true center in several games. That strategy worked against the lesser teams but not so well in losses to Iowa, North Carolina and Indiana -- the last a 26-point blowout.

Morris started 33 of 34 games last season, averaging 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds as Kentucky finished 28-6.