Investigations

Charles Bassey is academically eligible to play basketball at Western Kentucky University, according to the NCAA.

The ruling ends a summer of speculation about whether Bassey would be allowed to play for Rick Stansbury’s Hilltoppers. It’s still unknown where he got his diploma. 

Bassey, a 6-foot-11 top recruit from Nigeria, surprised the college basketball world in early June when he announced he would be reclassifying — leaving high school a year early — and enrolling at WKU.

Three weeks later, the university announced it would be hiring Hennssy Auriantal, Bassey’s guardian, as an assistant coach earning $250,000 a year. That is permissible in the eyes of the NCAA under certain circumstances.

But questions remained about Bassey’s academic eligibility. That’s not uncommon any time a player reclassifies, but in Bassey’s case, his high school never announced his graduation.

DeSales President Rick Blackwell said in an interview Friday that Bassey was enrolled there through the end of the school year — his junior year.

“The only thing we know is that he successfully completed his junior year at DeSales,” said Blackwell. “As far as any academic status that he had beyond his junior year [that] is with another institution.”

The NCAA directed questions about Bassey’s diploma to WKU. A WKU spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment.

On the men’s basketball roster, Bassey’s high school is listed as Aspire Basketball Academy, which is a basketball prep academy, not a school.  

Bassey spent his freshman and sophomore years at St. Anthony, a Catholic school in San Antonio, Texas. He then moved to Louisville to play basketball for Aspire. Some of Aspire’s players, including Bassey, attended DeSales, a Catholic boys school in the Iroquois Park neighborhood.

Aspire Head Coach Jeremy Kipness told the Courier-Journal in June that Bassey “did graduate high school and has his equivalent diploma.”

The NCAA does not allow players who reclassify to use a GED in lieu of a diploma. Kipness said Bassey had been taking online classes — in addition to his full course load at DeSales and twice-a-day practices for Aspire Basketball Academy.

Contact reporter Eleanor Klibanoff at eklibanoff@kycir.org or (502) 814.6544.

Eleanor Klibanoff covered Rust Belt decline and revival in Pennsylvania. She also worked for NPR and attended the George Washington University.