When Morgan State opens its season Friday at the University of Virginia, the team will take the floor without senior starters Cedric Blossom and Rasean Simpson.
Blossom, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound forward who hails from Columbia and played at Hammond before transferring to Montrose Christian, and Simpson, a 6-6, 200-pound guard, will sit out the first five and six games, respectively, due to academic issues, coach Todd Bozeman said Monday morning.
Blossom and Simpson are part of the group of athletes who were not properly certified by the university. The school announced Sept. 5 that as part of a routine review by the NCAA of Division I institutions' academic eligibility process, "a sampling" of student-athletes from 2010 to 2014 did not meet certain NCAA academic requirements and therefore did not have proper certification.
The review resulted in about a dozen members of the football team being ruled ineligible for the current 2015 season, including three offensive starters and two defensive starters.
Bozeman said he only learned recently that Blossom and Simpson would be unavailable for the first three weeks.
"It came up in the NCAA data review, something in their freshman year," he said. "I do want to emphasize that they both are eligible, but that is the penalty from what was found in the data review."
Bozeman declined to discuss what exactly led to the ineligibility for both players.
"I really can't get into specifics because now you're talking about privacy issues," he said. "So I can't get into specifics. All I can tell you is they uncovered some things that weren't addressed."
Forwards Kyle Thomas, a 6-7, 200-pound forward who lives in Owings Mills and graduated from Milford Mill, and Phil Carr, a 6-7, 190-pound sophomore who transferred from Williston State, have played extensively in Blossom's and Simpson's absence in recent scrimmages.
But Blossom was the Bears' leading scorer at 14.3 points per game and rebounder at 7.1, and Simpson chipped in 4.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. Their veteran leadership is something the team may miss, Bozeman acknowledged.
"Obviously, they don't have the same experience," he said of Thomas and Carr. "We're talking about two seniors. … It impacts our depth, for sure. We just won't have those guys. I won't get into strategy per se, but we won't have those guys for the first five and six games."