The name of Robin Benzing may not be a familiar one to all readers of BallinEurope, but he is now a new chapter of the problems young facing Europeans who wish to play in the NCAA.
After some of last season’s recruits from Europe were banned for one season, this summer’s problems have gone further. We received the following official press release from the University of Michigan yesterday:
Robin Benzing (Seeheim-Jugenheim, Germany) will not enroll to the University due to NCAA initial eligibility requirements.
We felt Robin had a very good chance of qualification, but in the end the NCAA Eligibility Center found him to be just short of eligibility to receive a scholarship from any Division I university.
While we were aware of the risk involved with this signing and we are disappointed for Robin, it does not deter our confidence in finding the right student-athletes for the future of this basketball program.
Robin is a fine young man and we will continue to provide him with the NCAA information he will need if he continues to pursue options in the United States. If he does not pursue these options, I assume he will begin playing at a professional level in Europe starting this fall.
As NCAA rules state that you are not allowed to get a scholarship when you have previously played professionally, for a few years the eligibility committee has also been looking more closely at the teams for which recruits played. And if those teams have paid players, even not the one committed to a given college, it is used as justification to deny these guys the opportunity to play NCAA basketball.
And this is what happened to Robin Benzing. Benzing played basketball at TV Langen in the 2nd German division without getting paid himself, but by playing alongside paid professionals on his team. Now he’s not even eligible for the NCAA, while his predecessors came away with a one-year ban or some other stuff.
This looks to me like the real end of Europeans going to the NCAA and thus the tradition of great basketball players like Detlef Schrempf, Rik Smits or Sarunas Jasikevicius who all went this way a few years ago. The only way for Benzing to fulfill his dream now would be to move to a prep school for one year and try to regain eligibility through this route — highly unlikely, however.
Instead, Benzing will probably sign a professional contract in upcoming weeks in order to continue his basketball career. First of all, though, he has to play the U20 B Division European Championship with Germany.
UPDATE (22/7/2008): According to this article, Robin Benzing has not been eligible because he failed in the SAT.