NCAA says Cheick Diallo can suit up for Kansas starting Tuesday

Kansas freshman Diallo cleared by NCAA (1:31)

Seth Greenberg and Jay Williams react to Kansas freshman Cheick Diallo finally being cleared to play by the NCAA after an independent review of Diallo's course work. (1:31)

The playing status of Cheick Diallo has been resolved, with the NCAA ruling Wednesday that the prized freshman can suit up for Kansas starting next week.

"I was in my [hotel] room and they was calling me to come to the media room," said the native of Mali who was on the trip with the Jayhawks to the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. "I just came. I know something's going to happen. I was so excited to hear what they want to tell me. Just told me like you got cleared to play. I was so nervous, and I was happy at the same time. Everybody was texting me and calling me and all saying we've got great news. But even right now, I'm still -- I'm not 100 percent. I'm so happy."

In a statement Wednesday, the NCAA ultimately ruled Diallo had received a limited amount of impermissible benefits. The result is a five-game suspension. Diallo will be allowed to play Tuesday night against Loyola (Md.).

"I can't wait," he said after Kansas' 70-63 victory over No. 19 Vanderbilt in the Maui final. "I can't wait. I'm ready."

The NCAA's decision ends a lengthy back-and-forth between the organization and the Jayhawks. Coach Bill Self held a conference call Saturday night to detail the steps the university had taken to work with the NCAA regarding Diallo's eligibility. Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger also sent a letter to the NCAA detailing the Jayhawks' view that the organization had mishandled the player's case.

"I really want to thank the NCAA staff for guiding this process to a fair conclusion in what was a very complicated situation," Zenger said.

Prior to Wednesday's game, a thankful Diallo took to Twitter.

Diallo arrived in the United States from Mali midway through his freshman season in 2012, and spent the past 3½ years at Our Savior New American, a private high school in Centereach, New York.

In 2012, the NCAA placed Our Savior under review, which could have nullified Diallo's core coursework.

The NCAA, though, confirmed that Kansas provided new information earlier this month, including an independent review of that coursework. Based on the information provided, the NCAA concluded that Diallo received a limited amount of extra benefits and thus would have to miss only Kansas' first five games.

"Our goal is to have eligibility decisions made prior to the start of a student-athlete's season," said Oliver Luck, the NCAA executive vice president of regulatory affairs. "However, this was a complicated case involving international transcripts and a high school that remains under review. Additionally, staff considered a complex set of circumstances regarding amateurism."

Diallo previously told ESPN that he received an A and a B in two summer courses he took at Kansas. He is enrolled in 15 units in the fall semester.

"The decision today was nothing more than a pretextual justification for a flawed investigation," Diallo's attorney, Don Maurice Jackson, said in a statement. "There were no legitimate academic issue relative to Cheick's secondary school education and no legitimate amateurism issues. ... Conveniently, the fifth game of Cheick's five-game suspension is [Wednesday's] game."

Diallo is considered the prize of Kansas' recruiting class, a relentless rebounder ranked No. 7 in the ESPN 100. He has drawn comparisons to Denver Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried.

The NCAA did not disclose what benefits Diallo received, nor did it respond to the critique that Zenger offered in his nearly six-page letter dated Nov. 10.

"I mean, it's been very tough. Sometimes I cannot even sleep," Diallo said. "I'm only thinking about what I'm going to do."

Kassoum Yakwe, another native of Mali and Diallo's high school teammate, also was cleared Wednesday to play at St. John's, which also happened to be in the Maui field. Yakwe was not on the trip.

"Kassoum. He's my best friend, of course," Diallo said. "He was texting me like, `Do you have news?' I'd be like I'm trying to joke with him and I say no. I said, `No, I'm not going to play this year.' He said, `Wow, are you serious?' So every time I call him, he's my best friend. He's kind of like my brother."

Diallo said he was upset with the whole process.

"I mean, I'm kind of mad because I've been suspended for five games. I don't even know what I did. I don't even know," he said. "So that's the kind of thing. I still play to my game. I don't know why they said I was suspended for five games. I don't know what I've done. I don't know."

Diallo's case became a touchpoint for discussing the role the NCAA has in examining the academic background of prospective student-athletes. Many have argued that schools are better-equipped to decide what coursework should count toward eligibility.

Then there's the on-the-court ramifications of the Diallo decision.

Kansas fans certainly knew what was at stake. Whether the Jayhawks were playing on campus at Allen Fieldhouse or in the Lahaina Civic Center for the Maui Invitational, fans' chants of "Free Diallo" had become the soundtrack to the start of the season.

Information from ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman, Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.