Tennessee had announced in May that McKnight planned to play for the Volunteers during the 2014-15 season in his final year of eligibility. But the university announced Tuesday that the SEC had denied McKnight’s application for a graduate transfer waiver.
“We have been informed that Eric McKnight has been denied the graduate transfer waiver by the SEC,” Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall said in a statement released by the university. “We pursued this issue through the proper protocol, and I respect the process. Although we are disappointed that Eric will not be joining our program, we are focused on moving forward.”
SEC associate commissioner Greg Sankey said the conference doesn’t comment on waivers.
But SEC bylaws have a list of criteria for graduate transfers that includes that “the student-athlete has not been subject to official university or athletics department disciplinary action at any time during enrollment at any previous collegiate institution (excluding limited discipline applied by a sports team).”
McKnight served a 12-game suspension at the start of last season for a violation of team rules. When Tennessee announced that McKnight planned to play for the Vols as a graduate transfer in May, FGCU coach Joe Dooley told reporters McKnight had been dismissed from FGCU’s team at the end of the 2013-14 season.
Tennessee athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak said McKnight needed a waiver from both the SEC and NCAA to become eligible to play for the Vols this season. Satkowiak said McKnight received approval from the NCAA, but not from the SEC.
Satkowiak said the NCAA waiver was necessary because McKnight was transferring from one four -year school to another for the second time. McKnight began his college career at Iowa State before going to Florida Gulf Coast.
McKnight, a 6-foot-9 forward, averaged 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds for Florida Gulf Coast last season.
Tennessee was hoping McKnight could help fortify a frontcourt that must replace second-round draft pick Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon from a team that went 24-13 and reached an NCAA regional semifinal last season.
Lady Vols’ Massengale
eager for comeback
(AP) — Tennessee is preparing to welcome back a senior point guard while monitoring the status of an ailing post player.
Ariel Massengale is looking forward to returning for her senior season after missing the final 16 games of the 2013-14 season with a head injury. Massengale, who also underwent offseason surgery on her right knee, says she’s hoping to be 100 percent by the start of the school year next month.
While Massengale awaits her return, sophomore center Mercedes Russell is recovering from offseason surgery to her right foot. Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick said Russell is out kind of indefinitely right now” and was uncertain whether the injury would affect the 6-foot-6 center’s status for the start of the season.
Russell, who was rated as the nation’s top high school prospect in her class by multiple recruiting services before enrolling last year, averaged 6.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game as a freshman.
“She probably needed (surgery) at the beginning of the year,” Warlick said. “She’s a tough kid. She chose to stick it out, tough it out. I don’t think we knew how bad it was until the end of the year.”
Tennessee is seeking its first Final Four berth since its 2008 national championship season after going 29-6 and reaching a regional semifinal last year. The Lady Vols spent much of that season without Massengale, who has been Tennessee’s starting point guard since her arrival on campus.
Massengale, a 5-foot-7 senior, was playing the best basketball of her career before getting inadvertently hit in the face while chasing a loose ball in a Jan. 23 victory over Florida. She averaged 12.5 points and 5.8 assists per game and had 2.3 times as many assists as turnovers.
Despite missing nearly half the season, Massengale still ranked second on the team with 31 3-pointers.
“I thought last year was definitely my year, but I believe everything happens for a reason,” Massengale said. “I learned a lot from that situation. I definitely do not take the game of basketball for granted. I know God has something in store. I don’t know what this year is going to bring, but I have a very good feeling it’s going to be something great.”
The latest injury continued a pattern for Massengale, who has a history of concussions dating back to high school. Although Massengale initially expected the latest injury to keep her out only a few weeks, her headaches continued throughout the season.
Teammates noticed the difference. They saw how the normally chatty Massengale wasn’t talking quite as much.
“It was sad to see how bad it affected her... how she’d have to turn down the TV, watch it with no sound, no lights in her room,” Harrison said. “It was kind of depressing. It was that way for a while. I’m glad she was finally able to get over it.”
Massengale says she feels much better now. She says she was reassured after visiting a specialist about her head. Warlick said the Lady Vols are “taking it slow” with Massengale, but she’s encouraged by her point guard’s progress.
That progress has Massengale eager to get back on the floor without being afraid of hurting her head again.
“I’m ready to go back out there,” Massengale said. “I don’t have any fears or worries going out there with it.”