Players cite coach in fighting ruling

Egyptian basketball players Aly Ahmed and Ahmed Hamdy have been deemed ineligible to play this season by the NCAA despite their claims they followed the advice of a former Division I assistant coach.

Ahmed will sit this season at Cal State Bakersfield, and Hamdy has been ruled ineligible at the University of Houston. Both players told ESPN they received poor advice from former Rice University and FIU assistant Marco Morcos, who helped bring both players to the United States.

Ahmed is a 6-foot-9, 270-pound sophomore who has been deemed ineligible to play this season for Rod Barnes after spending two seasons at a Houston-area private school. Hamdy is a 6-foot-9 freshman who will sit this year after also playing an extra season at Trent InternationalE School in Sugar Land, Texas.

Cal State Bakersfield already has been denied twice by the NCAA, but the administration and Barnes are optimistic that the latest appeal -- one that includes new facts, including Morcos' influence -- will result in Ahmed's case being reconsidered.

Morcos' influence on Ahmed's decision to play two seasons at Trent could change the ruling.

"I have no idea why I can't play," Ahmed told ESPN.com. "I just did what I was told to do."

"I'm not eligible because I went to Trent for an extra year," Hamdy told ESPN. "Marcos told me to go the extra year, and I didn't know better. I had no clue what to do."

Ahmed graduated from high school in Alexandria, Egypt, in the spring of 2010 and told ESPN.com he was recruited to come to the U.S. by Morcos, who also hails from Egypt. Ahmed arrived in December 2010, enrolled at Trent and played a few games at the end of the season. Hamdy arrived at Trent a few months later.

Ahmed committed to play for Morcos and Rice but said he was advised by Morcos to return to Trent for another year to improve his English and grades in order to meet the academic standards to get into Rice. Ahmed graduated in three years in Egypt, but Ahmed said Morcos' plan was for him to graduate at Trent in the spring of 2011 and return to do a postgrad year in 2011-12.

Hamdy said he also was told by Morcos to return to Trent for another season.

"NCAA rules allow for a one-year grace period after high school graduation for participation in sports before college enrollment," NCAA spokesman Christopher Radford told ESPN.com. "Any competition participation beyond this grace period is subject to NCAA review. In regards to Ahmed and Hamdy, NCAA staff thoroughly reviewed each case, but agreed that the respective student-athletes participated in organized competition beyond the allowed grace period. As is the case with all waiver review decisions, each school has the ability to seek further consideration if new information becomes available."

Morcos denied to ESPN.com that he told Ahmed to return for another year at Trent.

"I know the rules," Morcos said. "Why would I tell him that?"

Marcos also downplayed any influence on the players.

"Once those kids were enrolled at Trent, I had no influence over them whatsoever," he said. "They were not advised by me."

Ahmed suffered an ankle injury and said he played in fewer than five games his first season. Morcos parted ways with Rice, and Ahmed wound up signing with Texas Southern, which is located in the Houston area.

"The owners of the school wanted me to go to Texas Tech or Drexel," Ahmed said. "But I didn't want to leave Houston. I was happy here."

Ahmed said he was put in a room by himself with schoolwork for the entire school day over a three-week span after he told Trent InternationalE director Reeya Raman that he was going to sign with Texas Southern. Raman did not return multiple calls from ESPN.com seeking comment.

Both Hamdy and another former basketball player who wished to remain anonymous confirmed that Ahmed was put in a room alone for weeks.

"I was there and saw it," Hamdy said. "They put him in a room by himself for three or four weeks."

Ahmed wound up being released from his letter of intent at Texas Southern following a coaching change in which Mike Davis replaced Tony Harvey. He landed at Midland College, playing for then-coach Chris Craig.

Ahmed said the experience of playing for Craig at Midland, coupled with his past experiences, was enough for him to return home to Egypt with no plans to return to the U.S.

"He was talking about religion and how the world was going to end all the time," Ahmed said of Craig. "So I went back home and didn't want to come back."

However, Cal State Bakersfield assistant Marc Hsu, who recruited Ahmed while at Texas Southern, convinced him to come back and play for Barnes.

Ahmed returned this past September, but the NCAA has deemed him ineligible to play this season -- and said he has only two years of eligibility due to the fact that he played a second season at Trent.

Rule states that "a student-athlete who does not enroll in a collegiate institution as a full-time student in a regular academic term during a one-year time period after his or her high school graduation date or the graduation date of his or her class shall be subject to the following: charged with a season of eligibility for each calendar year after the one-year time period and also fulfilling an academic year in residence before being eligible."

"I don't understand it," Cal State Bakersfield athletic director Jeff Konya told ESPN.com. "With the totality of all the circumstances, with him not speaking English, not getting sound advice, playing in marginal competition and the student-athlete welfare of the past two schools.

"It seems to be a narrow look at it," he added. "Either take a year or make him sit, but don't do both."

"I don't know what I did wrong," Ahmed said. "All I did was listen to a college basketball coach and now I can't play."