Derek Strong, a 6-foot-10, 220-pound center from Palisades High School, is the latest area basketball player to have failed to meet the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.'s new eligibility requirements.
Strong, who signed a national letter of intent to play at Xavier University in Cincinnati, did not score 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, according to Xavier Head Coach Pete Gillen.
Gillen said Strong still plans to attend Xavier and will forgo a year of his eligibility.
"We were hoping he'd step in and be a factor for us this year," Gillen said. "But this may be a blessing in disguise for Derek."
Gillen said Strong will be able to adapt to college and concentrate on academics without the distractions of basketball. He added that Strong will be spared the pressure of high expectations that accompany any newcomer with his statistics.
Strong averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds and 9 blocked shots a game last season for the 17-7 Dolphins. Under the NCAA standards, adopted in 1982 but taking effect this fall, a scholarship candidate must either score a combined 700 on the SAT or a 15 on the American College Test. He must have a 2.0 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale in a core curriculum that includes three years of English, two years of mathematics, two of a social science and two of a natural or physical science.
Gillen, however, said that the new rule's proviso that the recruit may not even practice with the team is too harsh.
"At a bigger school, the coach won't even see him that much," he said. "And anything could happen. He could get in with the wrong crowd then.
"And it's really unnecessary. They're being punished enough without being told they can't practice, too."
But Gillen said Strong will not disappear from the watchful eyes of his coaches and teammates at Xavier, a school with an enrollment of only 6,800.
"We'll miss him, but I think it will help him in the long run," Gillen said. "He'll work out with weights and he'll be able to help us as a sophomore."