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August 21, 2008They're taking the NCAA ruling on Mike Cook particularly hard at Pittsburgh.
The NCAA said Wednesday that it would not grant Cook another season of eligibility, meaning that when he suffered a torn ACL against Duke last season in the Panthers' 11th game, his college career was over.
Cook played in 34 percent of Pitt's games, and the NCAA stuck to its rule that a player can receive a medical redshirt only if he has played in 30 percent of his team's games or less. If Cook had played in one less game, he would have met the requirement.
"Situations like this are hard to take when you know how dedicated Mike's life has been to playing basketball," Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said. "Over the last three years, Mike has contributed significantly to our success both on and off the floor and has been an important member of our basketball family.
"When I asked Mike why he wanted to come to Pitt, he simply said he 'wanted to win.' And he has won, going 40-8 as a starter. He has grown into a leader and has become an outstanding example for the younger players in our program. Mike has earned his degree and will have the opportunity to continue his career professionally when he returns to the floor."
Cook averaged 10.4 points last season, and he averaged 10.5 in 2006-07 after transferring to Pittsburgh from East Carolina. He is well liked on campus, and he interned in the Panthers' sports information office for a semester last summer.
"We were hopeful that Mike would be granted a sixth year of eligibility and it is unfortunate that the request has been denied," athletic director Steve Pederson said. "Our hearts went out to Mike when he suffered the injury against Duke and we feel for him now. Mike is an impressive young man with a bright future, and we wish him nothing but the best. He will always be an important part of the Panther family."
Even without Cook, Pittsburgh remains a Final Four-caliber team. The Panthers return All-Big East first-team selection Sam Young, Big East Rookie of the Year DeJuan Blair and point guard Levance Fields.
DeJuan Blair was the fifth Pittsburgh player to be named Big East Rookie of the Year. Who are the other four?
GOOD NEWS FOR KENTUCKY
The guard-thin Wildcats got some good news earlier this week regarding the eligibility of junior college transfer Kevin Galloway.
Galloway told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he made it into school and will be available for coach Billy Gillispie when practice starts in the fall.
Galloway, a 6-6 combo guard, played at the College of Southern Idaho last season after playing his freshman season at USC and then attempting to transfer to Fresno State. He appeared in 13 games for the Trojans in 2006-07 and averaged 2.8 points and 2.2 assists. Last season at Southern Idaho, he averaged 8.4 points, 8.6 assists (fourth nationally), 4.1 rebounds and 2.4 steals.
"I got in," Galloway told the Lexington newspaper. "Man, (it's) just a sigh of relief. It's been a long, long, tough couple years."
Galloway is long and athletic, and he's much more of a playmaker and distributor than a scorer. It could be of some concern that as a primary ballhandler, his free-throw shooting wasn't up to par last season (54.8 percent).
There has been no definitive word yet on the eligibility of incoming freshman DeAndre Liggins, though he is on the roster on UK's 2008-09 prospectus. Take that for what it's worth. Liggins is a four-star prospect who is the No. 28 overall player in the 2008 class and No. 6 among point guards. He's 6-6, and his game is similar to that of Galloway. Liggins is a good passer and can create off the dribble, but he's not a big threat shooting from the perimeter.
? North Carolina transfer Alex Stepheson has landed at USC, where he will attempt to obtain a waiver to make him eligible immediately. Stepheson transferred to the West Coast to be closer to his father, who is suffering from an undisclosed illness. This is similar to the transfer last season of Tennessee forward Tyler Smith, who left Iowa to be closer to his ailing father. Smith was granted immediate eligibility, but his father passed away before the season began. Stepheson averaged 4.3 points and 4.5 rebounds last season for the Tar Heels. He has two years of eligibility remaining.
? Despite coming off the bench, Australian point guard Patrick Mills - the only U.S. college player at the Olympics - led the Boomers with 20 points in their 116-85 loss to the United States in the quarterfinals in Beijing. Mills, who starred last season at Saint Mary's, played a team-high 28 minutes and shot 7-for-16 from the floor, including 2-for-4 from 3-point range. He had two assists and no turnovers.