Guard ruled ineligible after playing in Germany

Tommy Birch and Kyle Oppenhuizen/S

The fate of ISU basketball guard Lucca Staiger’s career now rests in the hands of the NCAA.

Staiger, a freshman guard from Baulstein, Germany, was ruled ineligible for the 2007-08 season because he was not certified for competition by the NCAA.

The 6-foot-5-inch, 220-pound guard said he was shocked by the ruling that was handed down last Wednesday night.

“I still don’t really understand what the point is of this whole situation because I don’t feel like I did anything wrong,” Staiger said.

Staiger played three seasons with the Ehingen club team in Germany. The NCAA ruled that because two members of the team received unnecessary stipends for their participation, the club is considered a professional organization. Staiger said he did not receive any compensation above what he was eligible for.

ISU coach Greg McDermott said he was disappointed with the ruling for Staiger’s sake and felt the NCAA incorrectly interpreted the rule.

“Given the information they have and the way they have interpreted that information, you could argue that it’s correct,” McDermott said. “However, we disagree with their interpretation of the rule.”

The NCAA implemented an amateur certification program that determines the amateur status of athletes based on NCAA guidelines, not school standards.

McDermott said the team is currently appealing the decision.

“I hope that in the legal process . we can convince them that the maximum penalty does not fit the criminal case – the maximum being ineligible for one year,” McDermott said.

Staiger said while he was in Germany, several teams approached him with offers to play professionally, yet he turned them down to leave open the possibility of playing college ball.

“I just think that I made the right decision,” Staiger said. “I said no just to have the option to play college basketball one day.”

A member of the German national team in 2006, Staiger played his senior season at Decatur Christian High School in Illinois, where he averaged 13.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game and was selected to play in the Illinois Premier Basketball High School All-Star Game.

Staiger was one of nine players competing for playing time this season at the guard position. After the departures of Mike Taylor, Dodie Dunson and Corey McIntosh from last year’s team, the Cyclones return only one player with experience in the guard position, sophomore Brock Jacobson.

McDermott said losing Staiger would be a blow to the team.

“He certainly will be part of our rotation in the guard court, if he’s eligible. If he’s not, and we can’t get anywhere with any sort of appeal, that would provide an opportunity for someone else,” McDermott said. “The guard court is an area where we lack the most experience and we lack the most depth, so it’s certainly a blow to our program.”

As for the future, Staiger said he’s going to wait to make any decisions until he hears back from the appeal.

“If I lose and the final decision is that I have to sit out the whole year, then I will start thinking about that,” Staiger said. “I don’t want to think about it now and worry too much about it because the final decision isn’t made yet.”