Rule may prohibit NAIA player from keeping $20K he won at OKC game

By Matt Norlander | Staff Writer

The freaky fortune of Oklahoma City Thunder could now affect a college basketball player's eligibility.

That's because Cameron Rodriguez, who hit a half-court shot at an OKC game last week -- and won 20 grand by doing so -- might not get the money. How? Why?

Rodriguez, 23, plays for Southwestern College (the Moundbuilders!!), an NAIA school in Winfield, Kansas. Rodriguez is reportedly on scholarship to play basketball at the school ($4,000/year, according to Bloomberg News), and now officials are looking into whether he can accept the money. That $4,000 hoops scholarship only goes toward what amounts to approximately $33,000 per year to attend Southwestern, according to Rodriguez.

The fact Rodriguez was chosen at random to take the shot is immaterial in the eyes of the NAIA.

The NAIA student guide says athletes cannot use their sports ability or fame for financial reward. John Leavens, the executive director of the NAIA Eligibility Center, said rulings on these cases typically take one to two weeks.

“It would certainly hurt his cause if he had tried to circumvent the rules,” Leavens said in a telephone interview. “The fact that he connected with the right officials to make sure that he understood the proper application of the rule is something that we expect, and we're glad to see.”

Apparently, as Leavans told Bloomberg News, if Rodriguez had come into the 20K by some other way, everything would be fine. But because he was plucked to pop a half-court shot in basketball, this is all up for review, and Rodriguez could lose his opportunity to play NAIA hoops, should he opt to keep the money.

That won't be the case, most likely, as Rodriguez has said he'll put the winnings toward charity.

And if you're thinking of yelling at the NCAA over this, think again. We're dealing with the NAIA here, a different organizational body. The NCAA has a rule that would allow Rodriguez to keep the money.

So if the NCAA would allow it, in theory, and there's still an issue ... then you know something must be really, really wrong.

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