A Facebook photo of Isaiah Brock from 2013.
A Facebook photo of Isaiah Brock from 2013. (Facebook)

In 2012, Baltimore's Isaiah Brock had two big problems. First, he hadn't been a very good student at Forest Park, from which he graduated in 2011. He also thought there was "nothing good" for him in the city.

So, wanting to get out but lacking many options to do so, he joined the U.S. Army.


"I knew I wasn't going to play sports in college, so I saw the military as — you can still get a degree [from] the military and get away from home, go away from that area," he told the Detroit Free Press.

He became a mortuary affairs specialist, extracting dead soldiers from war zones. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, a National Defense Service Medal and a Global War on Terrorism Medal. He also grew 8 inches, to 6 feet 8.

When Oakland men's basketball coach Greg Kampe went overseas last year for an event that connects soldiers with basketball coaches, he spotted Brock during a game. Here was an athletic, hardworking kid who wanted to go to college. Kampe offered him a scholarship. "I told him I couldn't promise playing time. But I told him I could give him an opportunity to experience college basketball," Kampe told CBS Sports.

For now, he can't. Last week, the NCAA ruled Brock academically ineligible to play this season.

Oakland officials knew he would be ruled a nonqualifier at first. He was a "C" student at Forest Park, a school from which just 70 percent of its students graduated and just 6 percent were considered college-ready during the 2013-14 school year, according to U.S. News and World Report.

But the Golden Grizzlies also had hoped for some relief from the NCAA. He was admitted to the Michigan school after being discharged from his military service and receiving a qualifying score on the ACT. While in Afghanistan, he earned an A and a B in University of Maryland University College online classes. At Oakland this summer, he got two Bs, even tutored other students.

The NCAA said he wasn't academically prepared. Because of his high school grades. From five years ago.

"I thought they would be more lenient — not show me sympathy, but review my service," Brock told the Free Press. "I understand you've got to look back on the grades and all that, but that was five years ago. Of course you're going to be a changed person. … But clearly, I wasn't worthy."

Oakland plans to appeal the decision to the NCAA, which does not comment on individual cases. The athletic department is hoping for resolution on his eligibility before the season starts in about a month.

"This guy came eye to eye with the Taliban, and you're going to tell him he can't play basketball? Because, four years ago, he didn't care about school?" Kampe told the Free Press. "He's gotten three B's and an A in college work. So why are you doing this? Who are you hurting if you let him play? What's the purpose for this? And they can't give us an answer."