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Pete Thamel’s New York Times Article Comes Out

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Earlier today, a blogger predicted we would read a new story from Pete Thamel of The New York Times. The article came out here but to save you from some clicking, here is what it says:

Three days before official practice begins, Kentucky’s national title hopes could hinge on the freshman center Enes Kanter, a star recruit from Turkey whose eligibility remains in question.

Kanter played for the senior club of Fenerbahce Ulker, a top team in a professional league in Turkey. Fenerbahce’s general manager, Nedim Karakas, said in an interview in Istanbul last month that Fenerbahce paid Kanter and his family more than $100,000 in salary and expenses, including a $19,800 bonus for making the team and $6,500 monthly. He also said the club provided the N.C.A.A. with bank statements listing the payments.

The N.C.A.A.’s task is to determine whether the money Fenerbahce gave Kanter was, according to N.C.A.A. bylaw 12.2.3.2.1, “more than actual and necessary expenses to participate on the team.”

No timetable is set for a decision. Kentucky Coach John Calipari has said that Karakas had “four million reasons” to make those claims, insinuating that the club was trying to sabotage Kanter’s eligibility to pick up a transfer fee if Kanter returned to play professionally in Europe or elsewhere.

“We have no intentions to ask for a release fee either from an N.B.A. franchise or any other pro club outside of Turkey,” Karakas wrote in an e-mail on Monday. “Fenerbahce is not going to demand for any fee for releasing his rights and will respect FIBA’s International Rules.”

Kanter practiced with Kentucky before its trip to Canada this summer and participated in workouts after the trip until an N.C.A.A. waiver recently expired. He was not allowed to play in the Canadian exhibitions.

While Calipari is confident Kanter will play for the Wildcats this season, Karakas disagreed.

“It was a surprise for us to learn that the N.C.A.A. permitted Enes to practice with U.K.,” he said. “The documents we have provided the N.C.A.A. with should have been sufficient to decide.”

Calipari declined to comment through a university spokesman who said Kentucky officials cannot comment on continuing N.C.A.A. issues.

Mehmet Kanter, Enes’s father, told The Sporting News in an e-mail last week that Fenerbahce officials “are trying to set an example” of Kanter to scare off other talented players in their youth system from playing college basketball in the United States.

Karakas disagreed with Mehmet Kanter’s contention that he “never once” discussed salary with Fenerbahce and kept “meticulous” records to ensure his son retained his amateur status.

“On the contrary to what he had said about his academic approach, he himself was the one to negotiate the terms of his son’s salary,” Karakas said.

Mehmet Kanter declined comment through e-mail, and his lawyer, Timothy Epstein, declined comment in a phone interview.

Karakas said the club was wealthy enough that it did not need the fee, which European basketball observers estimated at less than $500,000. Karakas said the club has an annual income of $275 million and is building a sports center in Istanbul that will cost more than $300 million. The club is considered one of the most prestigious in the EuroLeague, and its reputation in Turkey is similar to that of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.

“Three or 4 million USD would not mean that much,” Karakas wrote. “So before he talks to press, I would advise Coach Calipari to learn more about the people and/or institutions he will brag about.”

Karakas denied a request to show the bank statements and other documents he said he gave to the N.C.A.A. He said Fenerbahce officials promised the N.C.A.A. not to share them. He said that when the N.C.A.A. decided on Kanter’s eligibility he would be willing to share the copies. “Fenerbahce Ulker respects and supports the N.C.A.A. eligibility process, and we did our best by answering all of their questions openly and providing the needed documents,” he said.

Kanter’s eligibility was always considered a long shot. Oak Hill Academy Coach Steve Smith refused to accept Kanter for his senior year in high school after one of Smith’s former players, Brandon Jennings, said that he played against him in a EuroLeague game. Smith felt so strongly that Kanter was not an amateur that he refused to play against two other prep schools that Kanter attended. That forced Kanter to attend three schools before settling at Stoneridge Preparatory School in California.

Mehmet Kanter told The Sporting News that his son aimed to come to the United States to further his education. “He is very smart and academic and loves to study,” Kanter told The Sporting News.

Karakas disagreed, saying that academics were not among Enes Kanter’s strengths. He said that Fenerbahce had no problem with helping academically inclined players on their youth teams, like the Texas senior Dogus Balbay, go to the United States to play college basketball and earn their degree.

“Enes has a good basketball potential yet academically, he is not gifted as much,” Karakas said. With practice starting Friday, Free Enes T-shirts are the rage on Kentucky’s campus

Very nice….more from the Turkish GM, talks of a secret deal with Kanter’s father, still no proof or written evidence and an insinuation that Kanter isnt a good student. Pete Thamel, you sir are something else. More tomorrow on the radio….

Article written by Matt Jones