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Buffalo guard Nikola Rakicevic still 'pending' NCAA decision on his eligibility

UB Athletics

UPDATE: Rakicevic has been cleared and will be in uniform immediately:

It was almost a throwaway line in the Daemen postgame, mixed in with injury reports for Jarryn Skeete and David Kadiri: Serbian freshman Nikola Rakicevic did not participate because he and Buffalo are still awaiting an ruling on his eligibility from the NCAA.

Since then, almost nobody is talking about this, an uncertainty for the freshman shooter with international experience and high basketball IQ. To be fair, there's little more to say; the NCAA wields almost unchecked and unilateral power not only in their decision, but in the timeframe of the process. All we know right now is that Rakicevic is "pending."

This decision could end the Serbian's Buffalo career before it even begins. What's likely at play, unlike the appeals detailed in the linked story, is Nikola's amateur status as a result of his club career with KK Crvena Svezda in Serbia. While it's certainly possible that Rakicevic played with both the junior and senior teams with the Red Star, as Enes Kanter did before being ruled ineligible a few years ago, I can only find reference to him on Crvena Svezda's site on the junior (U18) team, which won a Serbian championship this past spring.

If Rakicevic is ruled to no longer be an amateur as a result of any of his previous experience, he would likely be ruled permanently ineligible, though the NCAA does have an 'eligible with conditions' category.

There's a chance that the holdup surrounds academics, in which case the NCAA would be picking through Nikola's previous transcripts. In that case, they can label Rakicevic a 'Partial Qualifier' and mandate a Year in Residence in which time he would bring his academics to meet NCAA standards. This restriction is more common for players coming out of prep schools and diploma mills, such as Marcus LoVett of St. John's earlier this week.

It's a waiting game for fans, the program, and Nikola. For us, at least, we don't even know what red flags have caught the NCAA's eye, though amateurism concerns are the likely guess. As the season opener draws closer and closer, it looks more unlikely Nikola will be considered eligible for the beginning of the season, but it's also my understanding that as soon as a ruling comes down, he can play without further rigmarole.