It appears Will Barton's Tiger career has ended before the first cross-over dribble. Barton apparently required more than eight semesters to complete high school, thus making him ineligible to play as a college freshman according to a recent NCAA regulation. (Barton and the university are appealing, and we know how NCAA appeals tend to go.)
One of three top-15 recruits landed by second-year coach Josh Pastner, Barton would have likely started at shooting guard, with fellow frosh Joe Jackson at the point. Would have made for an electrifying Tiger backcourt.
But only for a season.
We've reached the point with college basketball where the best fans can hope for is an elite one-year run. The NBA's age requirement for draftees has forced coaches (from John Calipari to Josh Pastner) to roll eligibility dice with every recruiting class. There may have been a time when academic ineligibility was only a delay to the college career of an All-America (see Penny Hardaway, 1990-91). But today's prep phenoms know college programs need them more than they need any tutelage at the NCAA level. Jackson, Jelan Kendrick, and Tarik Black (a local top-50 recruit) have their academics in order . . . we presume. And they'll make a compelling band of rookies this winter. None of them, though, should be written down for plans beyond the 2010-11 season. At least not in ink.
Tiger Nation should breathe a sigh of relief once the regret of Barton's absence loosens its grip. Unlike Derrick Rose, Barton's eligibility snag was recognized before he played his first college game. At the very least, let's make the games count.