NCAA denies hardship waiver for Illinois guard Ahmad Starks

The NCAA has been granting waivers left and right this offseason, but that stopped on Tuesday evening.

Illinois guard Ahmad Starks saw his hardship waiver request denied, meaning the Oregon State transfer will have to sit out this season before suiting up for the Fighting Illini in 2014-15.

Starks, a Chicago native who played at legendary Whitney Young High School, left Oregon State in April in order to be closer to his sick grandmother back home. However, because his home is more than 100 miles from Champaign, Ill., the location of Illinois’ campus, his waiver was denied. 

"Following a lengthy process, we have received final word from the NCAA on Ahmad's status. We are all disappointed with the decision to deny the waiver and especially feel bad for Ahmad and his family," Illinois head coach John Groce said in a release. "Ahmad had a compelling case, returning to his home state to be closer to an ailing grandmother who played an instrumental role in raising him. However, we now have to move forward. Ahmad will focus on preparing our team in practice while also making individual improvement, fueled by the goal of returning to the court in 2014-15."

Starks, a 5-foot-9 point guard, averaged 10.4 points and 2.3 assists last season for the Beavers. He would have made an immediate impact for the Illini, likely slotting into one of the starting spots in the backcourt. Groce lost Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson, the team’s top scorers from last season, along with two senior forwards and four transfers.

Without Starks, Illinois will need lots of help from newcomers. Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice sat out last season and will be eligible this year, while freshmen Kendrick Nunn, Jaylon Tate and Malcolm Hill are also expected to see minutes. Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand are back after playing key roles a year ago.

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