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Idaho’s men’s basketball uncertainty could affect five junior college transfers

Idaho basketball coach Don Verlin looks to his bench for help against Eastern Washington on  Jan. 12, 2018, in Cheney. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Idaho basketball coach Don Verlin looks to his bench for help against Eastern Washington on Jan. 12, 2018, in Cheney. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

MOSCOW, Idaho – Summer session classes at the University of Idaho start Monday, and the ongoing suspension of men’s basketball coach Don Verlin has implications for five prospective Vandals who are junior college transfers.

Verlin was placed on paid administrative leave by interim athletics director Pete Isakson on May 24, one day after the release of a basketball program review commissioned by UI that disclosed three possible NCAA violations.

Whether Verlin returns remains unresolved, according to athletics department spokesman Mike Walsh. There is no set date to determine Verlin’s fate, Walsh said, adding that “due process” is playing out.

The five junior college transfers must decide if they want to become Vandals in the midst of this uncertainty or if they want to retain the right to go to another school and play without having to sit out a year.

Eric Mireri, a guard from the College of Marin (California); Babacar Thiombane, who played a season for the U.S. Army at West Point and two years at East Los Angeles College; B.J. Simmons, a guard from Trinity Valley College in Athens, Texas; Ja’Vary Christmas, a guard from Wyoming’s Sheridan College and a former walk-on at Oregon; and Keyshead Dixon, from Ranger (Texas) Junior College, can all preserve their transfer options and request release from their letters of intent if they do not begin summer classes, Walsh said.

“Enrolling triggers a different transfer status,” Walsh said.

If the five begin summer school, they will be considered UI student-athletes and will be subject to the same transfer restrictions as Idaho’s seven returning players. The same is true for Jack Wilson, a center who transferred from Oregon State to Idaho last January and will be eligible to begin playing in the 2019-2020 season.

The returning players are seniors Trevon Allen and Marquell Fraser; juniors Scott Blakney and Chance Garvin; and sophomores Rayquawndis Mitchell, Jared Rodriguez and Khadim Samb.

“The kids who are returning, this has no impact on them,” Walsh. said. “They are already student-athletes.”

Isakson contacted the five prospective junior college transfers Friday and explained to them their options, Walsh said.

In Verlin’s absence, assistant coaches Tim Murphy, Kirk Earlywine and Zac Claus will continue to share the day-to-day responsibility of running the program, Walsh said.

That responsibility does not include running a basketball camp. The Vandals have no camp scheduled this summer.

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