This SEC rule could complicate Kentucky basketball's pursuit of Justin Powell
LEXINGTON – Kentucky basketball’s first major transfer target of the offseason comes with at least one significant complication.
Former Trinity and North Oldham star Justin Powell announced Tuesday he plans to transfer from Auburn. Kentucky and Louisville are part of a large group of top-level programs to reach out to Powell since he entered the transfer portal.
As a possible selection in the 2022 NBA draft, Powell will undoubtedly hope to play for his new school next season. While Kentucky is believed to be among the early leaders for his commitment, Powell would have to clear an additional hurdle to play for the Wildcats immediately.
In January, the NCAA delayed a move to pass transfer reform that would allow all players to transfer once and play immediately at their new school without sitting out a year, but the rule change could still be adopted later this spring. Even if the free transfer rule is not passed this offseason, Powell would be a good candidate for a waiver to play next season if he transferred closer to home. There could be medical considerations working in his favor as well since he missed most of Auburn’s season with a concussion.
However, the SEC currently requires transfers from one league school to another to sit out a season regardless of their eligibility per the NCAA transfer waiver process.
“I don’t, in the offseason, anticipate entertaining waivers,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Thursday when asked by the Courier Journal about the status of the intraconference transfer rule. “In fact, we’ve communicated the intraconference rule still stands. Our membership has voted on that rule. It’s been in place for decades. It was waved in the one time because of unique circumstances. And our member institutions if they want to change the rule need to submit their vision for the future and how we manage transfer issues within the conference.”
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The SEC issued a blanket waiver in September allowing all intraconference transfers immediate eligibility at their new schools for the 2020-21 athletic year. That move cleared the way for Kentucky backup quarterback Joey Gatewood to play after transferring from Auburn.
In a statement released at the time of the blanket waiver, Sankey said, “In a non-COVID environment there may have been a different outcome for some of the waiver requests determined today.”
While the pandemic continues to affect the sporting world, Sankey dismissed the possibility of a repeat of the blanket decision this offseason.
“I don’t anticipate offseason waivers,” he said. “Our membership needs to deal with what it wants in the rule, and we’re going to need to do that, I think, when we understand what’s going to happen at the national level.”
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Sankey said the SEC schools could still vote to change the intraconference transfer rule as part of its normal legislative process later in the spring. That move would be more likely if the NCAA has approved its free transfer rule.
Powell told 247Sports Thursday he plans to take his time to consider his options, waiting to see what the rosters of the interested programs will look like after NBA draft and transfer decisions. Slow-playing the process would also allow him to gain greater clarity on the status of the SEC rule.
“If the rules change, there won’t be a need for waivers,” Sankey said. “If the membership says no, we want to keep the rule as is. I expect we’ll narrow and reduce any consideration of waivers to those that are specifically legislated.”
Email Jon Hale at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ.