Maeshon Witherspoon owns only one piece of Kansas memorabilia: a glass emblazoned with the phrase KU MOM. Her only child, Josh Selby—the Jayhawks' most famous freshman and would-be star point guard—is nearly as cherished in Lawrence as he is in his mother's Baltimore apartment. "We text each other every day," says Witherspoon, a single, self-described "goofy mom" who's been known to dance in the stands while rooting on her son's teams.
How soon she will be cheering on Selby as a Jayhawk is the question vexing Witherspoon and Kansas coach Bill Self. The 6'2", 183-pound Selby is one of three top 25 freshmen, each at a top 25 school, whose eligibility for this season still awaits a verdict by an increasingly vigilant NCAA. (To wit: Mississippi State power forward Renardo Sidney missed all of last season while the NCAA investigated allegations that he had received improper benefits during high school. In a March 5 decision Sidney was required to repay $11,800 and sit out the first nine games of this season.)
At Kentucky, 6'11" forward Enes Kanter is on campus but barred from practice due to concerns about the compensation he received from a Turkish pro team, for whom he played from ages 14 to 16. (Kanter's case is the first test of an NCAA rule change that went into effect in August that permits foreign prospects to play with pros but prohibits them from receiving "more than actual and necessary expenses.")
And Tony Mitchell has yet to arrive at Missouri because of questions about his high school grades. He is ineligible for the fall semester, and the inquiry is ongoing. Tigers coach Mike Anderson hopes to have the power forward in Columbia by late December.
Selby is being investigated by both the NCAA's Eligibility Center—in part concerning night classes he took for credit in high school, sources tell SI—and by its Agent, Gambling and Amateurism division because of his relationship with fellow Baltimorean Robert (Bay) Frazier, who has served as an adviser to the family. (Frazier is Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony's business manager.) In the interim Selby has been cleared to attend classes and practice with the Jayhawks, and he has been named Big 12 preseason freshman of the year. "It hasn't been a distraction," Self told reporters at media day. "It hasn't come as a shock to us. I'm confident he'll be in uniform."
Even if Selby isn't, the effort to get him was worthwhile. The elite scorer might prove the difference between a KU Final Four and a Sweet 16. As with Kanter and Mitchell, Selby's recruitment was a foregone conclusion, despite any lingering doubts. "It's not a risk to your program, because if violations are committed, they aren't attributed to your school," says one high-major assistant coach who recruited Selby. "Although it's a big loss if he's not eligible to play, you're not going to get put on probation or anything like that."
For her part Witherspoon keeps praying that she'll get to watch her son soon. "We're blessed," she says. "This is an opportunity for maturity." For her, the glass is half full.
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SETH DAVIS'S Three-Pointer
Purdue is still a Final Four threat. Losing forward Robbie Hummel to another torn ACL is devastating, but the Boilermakers have two all--Big Ten caliber players in 6'4" senior guard E'Twaun Moore, and 6'10" senior post JaJuan Johnson.... Bruce Pearl has more explaining to do. A letter released last Friday by Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton stated that Pearl asked recruits and their families to lie about attending an '08 dinner at his house, which was against NCAA rules.... Despite an NCAA investigation into possible recruiting violations, Baylor coach Scott Drew got verbal commitments from two top seniors, including 6'9" forward Quincy Miller, a Rivals.com top 5 prospect.
JEFF JACOBSEN/KAI (SELBY)
ON POINT Selby (left) can at least practice with Kansas, but Kentucky's Kanter (below) is stuck on the sidelines.
CLAY JACKSON/THE ADVOCATE MESSENGER (KANTER)
[See caption above]
ROBERT BECK (JOHNSON)