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Junior college transfer Keith Thomas ruled academically ineligible to play for St. John's

St. John's head coach Steve Lavin directs his

St. John's head coach Steve Lavin directs his team. (Dec. 28, 2013) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Junior college transfer forward Keith Thomas, who was counted upon by St. John's basketball coach Steve Lavin as a major contributor for much-needed rebounding help, has been ruled academically ineligible to compete during the 2014-15 season. The school said its investigation into his transcript from Westchester Community College showed Thomas doesn't meet NCAA academic standards for transfers.

"Academic integrity is treated very seriously at St. John's University, and we are committed to maintaining high academic standards for all of our student-athletes," athletic director Chris Monasch said in a statement.

"Our athletic compliance office recently became aware of information that triggered an additional review of Thomas' academic credentials at Westchester Community College. Our assessment and decision are in accordance with university and NCAA policies."

The 6-8 Thomas, who is from Mount Vernon, led all Division I junior college players with 15.7 rebounds per game last season and averaged 15.3 points in 32 games. His loss means Lavin must count upon 6-11 freshman Adonis Delarosa and possibly 6-7 redshirt sophomore Christian Jones to help 6-10 center Chris Obekpa in the frontcourt.

"We share Keith's disappointment, and as a basketball family will provide moral support," Lavin said in the statement. "Keith clearly has a bright future in basketball and is determined to ultimately further his education."

Irregularities with Thomas' transcript were uncovered only after Florida A & M contacted WCC on Oct. 15 about falsified transcripts for transfer players Jamell Walker and Damien Davis, according to a report in the Journal News. The Journal News also reported that WCC assistant Richard Fields was fired the next day after admitting he falsified the transcripts. St. John's began its own investigation after the incident at WCC occurred, a school spokesman said.

Thomas becomes the fourth scholarship player to be ruled academically ineligible under Lavin in three years. In 2011, three members of a nine-man recruiting class -- Amir Garrett, JaKarr Sampson and Norvel Pelle -- were ruled ineligible. Garrett and Sampson eventually played for the Red Storm, but Pelle did not.

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