St. John's Orlando Sanchez granted permission to play next season by NCAA

Dominican Republic's Orlando Sanchez, left, dribbles around Cuba's

Dominican Republic's Orlando Sanchez, left, dribbles around Cuba's Enrique Ramos during a FIBA Americas Championship basketball game in Mar de Plata, Argentina. (Aug. 30, 2011) (Credit: AP)

St. John's and Orlando Sanchez were prepared to take the NCAA to court to fight for the top prospect's eligibility, but it turns out Sanchez will be on court for the 2013-14 season. After three previous denials, the collegiate governing body Thursday approved a waiver granting him one year of eligibility.

"It's big news," Sanchez said in a statement released by the school. "I can play next year. I'm so happy. I'm going to call my grandma right now and tell her the great news. I'm going to tell them 'I'm free. I can play.' "

Under NCAA rules, any organized basketball activity after the age of 21 counts as a year of eligibility. Sanchez played eight games with an amateur club team in his native Dominican Republic in 2009 and two years at Monroe College in the Bronx. At issue was a 3:38 appearance for his national team in 2010, which the NCAA originally said counted as a year of eligibility.

St. John's retained North Carolina attorney Robert F. Orr, who presented new evidence in an appeal filed Monday. It showed Sanchez was unable to enroll in school in Spain after he dropped out of high school and went there to work with his father as a carpenter and send money home to his grandmother.

An NCAA statement read in part: "In reaching its decision, the staff noted that both the student-athlete's personal circumstances and his minimal amount of competition with the Dominican Republic National Team warranted relief from the rule. Specifically, the staff pointed to new documentation . . . supporting the assertion the student-athlete was unable to enroll in high school in Spain and continue his education at that time."

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