Though most eligibility cases regarding foreign players have arisen because the NCAA unearthed some damaging information, Radojevic's case came to light because officials of his former club apparently were miffed over his decision to play in the U.S. Says Radojevic, "I'm hoping I will never return to Yugoslavia because of them. They insist on destroying my career."
Ohio State learned shortly before the November signing period that Radojevic might not be eligible to play. The NCAA sent the Buckeyes a copy of a letter it had received from Buducnost's general manager stating that Radojevic "has signed contract with our club...and was paid for his first season." Says Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien, "We talked to Aleks about it, and he said he hardly played." Indeed, the Buckeyes eventually learned that Radojevic had played a total of 19 minutes in four games during the 1996-97 season. So O'Brien decided to accept Radojevic's letter of intent and appeal to the NCAA for his right to play. Ohio State proposed suspending Radojevic for the first 10 games of the coming season and requiring him to repay the $13,000 to a charity of his choice, but the NCAA denied the appeal.
Radojevic's case raises questions regarding the NCAA's treatment of foreign players. Given that the only place for a youngster overseas to develop his skills is with a club team, which often requires players to sign a contract, is there any doubt that there are other players competing for U.S. colleges with as-yet-undiscovered backgrounds similar to Radojevic's? And what about all those American schoolboys who spend their summers playing for AAU teams that provide travel expenses, sneakers and sometimes other benefits? Are the rules being applied to everyone equally?
Those questions may get resolved someday, but it will be too late for Radojevic. "I'm disappointed and frustrated," he says. "You have so many kids who want to go to the NBA right after high school, and I wanted to stay in college and they wouldn't let me. It's really bad."
Star Prospect Bucks Trend
Staying Home For the Summer
With the summer evaluation period set to begin in three weeks, hundreds of the nation's top schoolboys are preparing to spend the month of July crisscrossing the U.S. to appear at showcase camps and in AAU tournaments. Waverly High's Marcus Taylor, however, will spend most of July at home in Lansing, Mich., working out with his father, James. Marcus, a 6'3" point guard who's widely regarded as one of the top players in the incoming senior class, will attend the Nike All-American Camp in Indianapolis from July 5-11 but he hasn't played AAU ball since he was in seventh grade, and his dad isn't about to encourage him to start now.
"He doesn't need the exposure, and I don't want him to pick up bad habits and bad thoughts," James says. "There are so many players nowadays who don't know how to play, don't have fundamentals and don't understand the team concept. I haven't seen anybody learning those things in AAU."
That means college coaches will only have a small window of opportunity to watch Marcus play this summer, but it's probably just as well in the eyes of one coach, Michigan State's Tom Izzo. Izzo has been going to Marcus's games since Marcus was in seventh grade, and Marcus attends almost all the Spartans' home games. As if that weren't enough, Marcus also has a good relationship with Magic Johnson, the hero of the Spartans' 1979 national championship team, who grew up just two miles from where Marcus lives.
While Marcus insists he hasn't decided where he's going to college, he did receive some telling advice from Johnson a few years ago. "He told me to make sure it's my decision because I'm going to have to live with it," Marcus says. "Of course, he also said I shouldn't go too far from my family. I guess that was a hint."