Wednesday, January 21, 2009

MAJOK CLEARED BY NCAA

After months of waiting, Ater Majok was finally cleared by the NCAA tonight as a partial-qualifier. That means that he'll be eligible to start practicing once he enrolls in classes tomorrow.

Majok, a 6-foot-10 forward from The Sudan via Australia, won't be able to play until the conclusion of finals in the fall of 2009.

"Our first game next year is Dec. 15," Jim Calhoun quipped.

Majok learned of his clearance about a half-hour before tonight's game with Villanova via a text message from UConn assistant coach Andre LaFleur that read "Get up here, right now."

He arrived at the XL Center and "everybody was smiling, I was stressed out … it was supposed to be yesterday. Everyone was hugging me. I thought I was about to suit up, so I was looking for my uniform. It's great."

Majok said he's not overly disappointed about not being able to play this season.

"It's good that I get to fit in first," he said. "The season's almost over, so it's good for me just to come in and practice and help them be a better team in practice."

He'll wear No. 5 next season.

Majok added: "Don't worry ... nobody's going to get a shot off on me. It's going to be a fight every practice. I'm going to make them a better team. I've got to contribute somehow. If I'm not going to do it on the court, I'm going to have to do it in practice."

It's been a long wait for Majok -- and he doesn't want to know why.

"Nobody told me, and I don't really want to know," he said. "It's been so long, I just want to practice. I was stressed out and worried that I'm going to miss a lot of schoolwork, but I wasn't worried about playing or practicing. That's secondary to what I'm here for. I'm here to get a university education."

"Given what happened to him in refugee camps, his sister is still in camps in Egypt, and the fact that his family is spread out all over the world, what happened today … I couldn't be happier, on a personal (level)," said Calhoun. "The SAT scores he achieved … it's a great human-interest story. He's really special. Obviously, we think he's going to be a very good basketball player, but him as a person, he's really a special kid."

As a partial-qualifier, Majok will be allowed to sit on the Huskies' bench during home games, but he won't be allowed to travel with the team.

Added Hasheem Thabeet: "I'm happy for him. That happened to me, too, it took them a long time to clear me out. They already wasted a couple of months trying to clear him. I feel bad about that, but at least you know he's going to be able to attend school and take classes this semester, and next year he'll be there."

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