On Tuesday, the NCAA refused to approve the hardship waiver petitioned by Illini point guard Ahmad Starks. After transferring from Oregon State, he was hoping to play his senior season in orange and blue in order to be closer to his ailing grandmother in Chicago.
The NCAA’s reason for denying the request was because Starks’ home is more than 100 miles from Champaign, Ill. Though a seemingly understandable reason, Illinois and its basketball program still feel empathetic for Starks upon the decision. Head coach John Groce released a statement:
“Following a lengthy process, we have received final word from the NCAA on Ahmad’s status. We are all disappointed with the decision to deny the waiver and especially feel bad for Ahmad and his family. Ahmad had a compelling case, returning to his home state to be closer to an ailing grandmother who played an instrumental role in raising him. However, we now have to move forward. Ahmad will focus on preparing our team in practice while also making individual improvement, fueled by the goal of returning to the court in 2014-15.”
Back in April, Starks told the Gazette Times, “She’s going on 90 years old and I don’t know how much time she has left.” As stated, his grandmother, Mazola Robinson, has reportedly played a large part in her grandson’s life and is now battling Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Starks’ final season with the Beavers left everyone questioning how it had affected him. Despite the slumps he experienced his junior year, he still averaged 10.4 points and 2.3 assists per game. Illinois was hoping that he could help replace the top scorers they lost in graduating seniors D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul.
Starks will continue to practice with the team and hopefully be able to start for Coach Groce and the Fighting Illini come fall 2014 for his final season of eligibility.