"But I think we can do something great - something great for the team, something great for St. John's." - Orlando Sanchez
Orlando Sanchez - the man nicknamed "Primo", ruled ineligible by the NCAA earlier in the season - is now free to play.
Thank you to St. John's for helping me get cleared, my familia for staying strong, and my teammates for having my back!— Orlando S.33 (@Orlandito0933) February 28, 2013
The news, originally broken by Kieran Lynch, is a cause for excitement - for next season. Sanchez is not expected to suit up for Steve Lavin's team this year. The late date would have him integrate with the team's attack in four to twelve games, depending on post-season play.
A strong public relations push by St. John's and his lawyer Robert Orr to overturn the NCAA's ruling resulted in national press from the likes of Jay Bilas and Dana O'Neil. Combined with the financial hardships faced by Sanchez, who moved to Spain with his father to help support his grandmother, the Sanchez story had appeal to many beyond the St. John's fanbase.
The restriction, based on under four minutes played with the Dominican Republic national team in 2010 after he was over the age of 21, was widely seen as a misapplication of the spirit of the NCAA's law.
"It's three minutes and thirty-eight seconds. It's nothing. Three minutes and thirty-eight seconds to represent my country. It's not making sense to me," Sanchez told the media on Tuesday.
Orr had also represented UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad, who was embroiled in a fight with the NCAA over eligibility earlier this season.
Sanchez, a 6'9" forward, brings athleticism and defense to the Johnnies. He's a solid passer and a very good defensive rebounder, as well as a finisher around the rim.
Orlando is expected to shore up an interior that has depended on heavy minutes from Jakarr Sampson and Chris Obekpa; no word on how this affects God`sGift Achiuwa's status. Achiuwa was expected to see less time with Sanchez ahead of him in the pecking order.
NCAA's full statement on the decision:
"St. John’s University men’s basketball student-athlete Orlando Sanchez has been granted an additional year of eligibility, according to a decision today by the NCAA national office staff. To prevent athletes from delaying college enrollment for athletic reasons, the member-created NCAA rule that governed Orlando's participation prior to his collegiate enrollment states that each year a student-athlete participates after their 21st birthday before college enrollment counts as a year of eligibility.
However, in reaching its decision, the staff noted that both the student-athlete’s personal circumstances and his minimal amount of competition with the Dominican Republic National Team warranted relief from the rule. Specifically, the staff pointed to new documentation presented by the institution supporting the assertion that the student-athlete was unable to enroll in high school in Spain and continue his education at that time. St. John’s waiver request was denied and then appealed in November to an independent subcommittee, which is comprised of individuals across NCAA membership.
After an unsuccessful appeal, St. John’s stated it would submit new information so that the case could be reconsidered. When new and significant information becomes available, the NCAA is committed to examining the information so that the student-athlete’s best interest may be served. The staff received and considered the new information this week."