Wake Forest opens door, so others court Ndiaye


He has yet to play a college basketball game, but Makhtar Ndiaye has created a stir on both coasts, as well as at the NCAA headquarters outside Kansas City., Mo.

Ndiaye was supposed to take the place of Rodney Rogers at Wake Forest, but the NCAA ruled that the Demon Deacons had an "unfair recruiting advantage" in getting a commitment from the 6-foot-9, 245-pound center from Senegal.

That's NCAA-speak for saying Wake Forest coach Dave Odom might not have been totally aboveboard in Ndiaye's recruiting. Odom allegedly hired someone to act as Ndiaye's interpreter, then influenced him to attend Oak Hill Academy to finish his high school requirements.

Now, it seems that two other fine institutions of higher learning that happen to have Top 25 basketball teams, UCLA and Michigan, have jumped in the fray for Ndiaye's services. Talk about taking advantage of another team's mistakes.

Ndiaye has spent this week on a tour of those campuses, attending Wednesday night's Michigan-Michigan State game in Ann Arbor before heading west for last night's game at Pauley Pavilion between UCLA and Oregon. The Wolverines, looking to replace Chris Webber, are still considered the favorites. The Bruins already have two players, Ed O'Bannon and Shon Tarver, who came to Westwood when Nevada-Las Vegas went on probation.

How good a player is Ndiaye?

According to Oak Hill coach Steve Smith, Ndiaye is even better than Jerry Stackhouse, who also played at the Mouth of Wilson, Va., prep school (and basketball factory) last season.

"He's a big-time talent," Smith told the Los Angeles Times. "He's very, very athletic. He's got perimeter skills. He really runs the floor, he blocks shots like a 7-footer and he can play inside or out."

Meanwhile, the Demon Deacons are well into what Odom has labeled "Plan C." That means going into the Atlantic Coast Conference season without Ndiaye or Ricardo Peral, a 6-9, 216-pound forward from Spain. Wake Forest still is awaiting word on Peral's eligibility from the NCAA.

Odom, who says he still has yet to be interviewed by the NCAA regarding Ndiaye, won't let this situation change his feelings about recruiting foreign players in the future. (But his future in Winston-Salem might be affected if more serious infractions are found.)

Iverson worth the risk?

The tale of Allen Iverson took an interesting twist last week when L. Douglas Wilder, in one of his last official acts as governor of Virginia, granted the controversial high school basketball star conditional clemency by reducing a five-year prison sentence to one year's probation.

While Iverson still can't play what would have been his senior year atBethel High School, Wilder's action set in motion the process by which a player many coaches consider the best recruit in the country can finish his academic requirements needed to play Division I basketball next season.

But the question remains: Is Iverson, who was convicted of three counts of maiming by mob after being a key participant in a bowling alley brawl last summer, worth the risk? A few coaches who were in the hunt for the 6-1 point guard pulled out of the running after Iverson's conviction; a few others are trying to jump back in now that Iverson will likely be available after an Aug. 23 parole date.

George Washington coach Mike Jarvis stuck with Iverson throughout the player's troubles, reportedly visited him at the correctional institution where he was incarcerated and now appears to be the leading contender for a player many believe is as good as Cal's Jason Kidd was coming out of high school. Others still in the hunt include Virginia and Georgetown.

But the question remains: Is he worth the risk?

American University coach Chris Knoche took heat for recruiting Ronnell Williams after the former Cincinnati high school star was convicted for drug trafficking, then took some more after Williams was caught using the credit cards of his AU roommates.

"It's important that universities as a whole be comfortable with what you're doing and who you're recruiting," Knoche said yesterday. "When we went through the process [recruiting Williams, who has since transferred to Southern University], there were a lot of people involved. If part of a university's charter isn't giving opportunities to people who aren't getting them, then what should it be? It's important that universities extend those opportunities,especially in cities."

It's not jolly for Rollie

Things are getting a little messy for Rollie Massimino at UNLV. During a 59-39 loss Monday night at home to Virginia, fans behind the bench were making derogatory gestures at the Runnin' Rebels coach.

During halftime ceremonies to retire Sidney Green's uniform, athletic director Jim Weaver and university president Robert Maxson were booed. And afterward, Massimino went after a couple of fans behind the bench, challenging a known supporter of former coach Jerry Tarkanian to a fight.

Those who followed Massimino's career at Villanova aren't surprised. After winning the national championship by upsetting Georgetown in 1985, he quickly wore out his welcome in Philadelphia and the Big East. Maybe Stony Brook will want him back when it goes Division I.

Suggestion of the week

At next week's convention in San Antonio, the NCAA powers-that-be should vote to return the start of practice to the traditional Oct. 15 date, from the Nov. 1 date that has been used the past two years. That way, coaches won't have the now well-worn excuse as to why their teams didn't have enough time to get ready for the season.

Stat of the week

Indiana guard Damon Bailey has accounted for more than 25 percent of the Hoosiers' field goals and more than 35 percent of their three-pointers.

Quote of the week

"We got to let this young man grow. When he gets to that point, with experience, whooooosh, he's going to be bad news in tennis shoes." Wisconsin coach Stu Jackson on 7-0 freshman Rashard Griffith.

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