Academic records in question

Every day has been a bad one for Beas Hamga lately. He feels betrayed, wonders what went wrong and waits for an answer that seems as if it will never come.

The 7-foot center from Cameroon, the biggest piece to the UNLV men’s basketball team’s incoming recruiting class, is missing from campus. And he’s puzzled as to why.

The NCAA is questioning Hamga’s academic records, leaving him ineligible and unable to enroll as a full-time student.

He expected to be starring for the Rebels this season. Instead, he is practicing with the team at Findlay College Preparatory and living in a five-bedroom house in a quiet Henderson neighborhood with an assistant coach, the coach’s wife and eight other players.

“I don’t know what’s going on right now,” Hamga said Thursday after a Findlay Prep practice. “I’m just upset, frustrated and disappointed. I can’t go maybe one minute without thinking about it.”

Hamga, who turned 19 in July and was ranked as a top-50 high school prospect, worries about his future. A lot of hype accompanied his commitment to the Rebels, but he said there is a chance he might never play for UNLV.

Originally classified as a 2008 recruit, Hamga worked to graduate one year ahead of schedule. He attended high school at Decatur Christian (Ill.) last year and spent the previous year at Cornerstone Christian in San Antonio.

In May, after he signed with UNLV, his eligibility appeared to be a formality.

“We anticipate no problems at all,” Rebels coach Lon Kruger said May 16. “He’s a good student, and he’s done the things he needs to do. It’s just a matter of paperwork. It just takes a little more time with a foreign student.”

Kruger is held speechless now, prohibited from commenting on Hamga until the NCAA Clearinghouse rules on his status.

“Everything is pertaining to the transcripts from Cameroon,” said Mark Adams, Hamga’s guardian in Bloomington, Ind. “But there’s a lot of kids from Cameroon playing basketball in the United States. I don’t know what could be the problem, but we’re trying to get it straightened out.

“I don’t know what the NCAA is thinking, and you can’t really get a straight answer from them anyway. The NCAA is just so slow. I know UNLV is fighting it.”

Jennifer Kearns, the NCAA’s associate director of public relations, said the NCAA is not authorized to publicly address specific cases because of privacy laws.

“They try to look at the situation and move it through as quickly as possible and be as thorough as possible,” Kearns said of the Clearinghouse. “There is no way we can predict how long it may take.”

The NCAA has no timetable to make a ruling. But if Hamga is not granted eligibility by Oct. 15, the last day he can enroll as a full-time student at UNLV, he cannot play during the fall semester.

Meanwhile, Hamga is confused and twisting in the desert wind.

“They are wrong,” Hamga said of the NCAA and its doubts about his schoolwork in Cameroon. “They don’t think those are high school grades, but they are really high school grades.”

He said he felt “pressured” to graduate from high school early and wonders if he was given poor advice. But he said he is not angry with UNLV’s coaches and declined to name those who advised him.

“I don’t know if they just didn’t get enough information. They said, ‘You’ll be fine, you’ll be fine,’ and I did it. But now it’s not fine,” Hamga said. “Now everything is messed up. I don’t know if I can trust people anymore, you know what I mean?”

Findlay Prep coach Mike Peck would rather Hamga be practicing with the Rebels. Peck spent three years on the UNLV basketball staff, one year under former coach Charlie Spoonhour and two years under Kruger, serving as video coordinator and handling administrative duties.

He said he sees Hamga’s anger with the situation growing.

“It kind of blindsided him,” Peck said. “I think he’s frustrated, and we kind of hope he’s moving out of that mad phase, but it’s understandable.

“We try to tell him, ‘Beas, things could be worse.’ At the same time, it’s not what he was expecting and anticipating to happen.”

Adams talks to Hamga frequently and said, “He just doesn’t understand everything, and he’s probably upset with everybody.”

Hamga, who turned down Kentucky, Indiana and other major programs to sign with UNLV, is unsure if he will play for the Rebels if he’s not reinstated before Oct. 15.

He is taking a Spanish class at Findlay Prep and two classes as a part-time student at UNLV but said concentrating on school is difficult.

“If it doesn’t work out, I will go somewhere else. I’m really going to be unhappy. I won’t stay here,” he said. “It’s just bad memories about Vegas.

“But I want to wait. I don’t want to talk about that yet. I can’t sleep one night … I think about everything.”

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