Lamar academic woes could boost NCCU hoops cause

Jun. 06, 2014 @ 05:50 PM

Another team’s turnover with its Academic Progress Rate could dish an assist to N.C. Central.

Nimrod Hilliard, the leading scorer for Lamar University last season, has used Twitter to say goodbye to that school and announce that he’s ready to get in on what NCCU had going last year when the Eagles went 28-6 and made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

Neither NCCU nor Lamar has announced that Hilliard has transferred, but he could be eligible to play right away if he has.

Student-athletes transferring from one Division I school to another generally are required to miss a season per NCAA rules, but that doesn’t apply if a transfer is leaving a school an unacceptable APR and the player has just one season of eligibility remaining.

Hilliard is listed as a senior on Lamar’s roster for 2014-15 and has one more season of basketball eligibility, said James Dixon, assistant athletics director for media relations at Lamar.

The APR is touted as a way to determine whether players receiving sports-related financial aid are handling their business in the classroom. Each player earns one point per semester by remaining academically eligible and another point each semester for being enrolled in school.

A team’s total points from its players are divided by the total possible points and multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s APR. For example, a basketball team with 15 players on scholarship could get as many as 30 points if each of those players gets his two points for being both enrolled and academically eligible.

Teams participating in 2014-15 championships must have earned either a 930 APR average from 2009-10 to 2012-13 or a 940 average over the most recent two years.

The most recent multi-year APR score for Lamar’s basketball team is 915, which precludes the Cardinals from the participating in the 2014-15 postseason and reduces practice time.

NCCU’s 933 APR puts the Eagles in position to acquire talent and try to repeat as Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champs of both the regular season and the league tournament.

Student-athletes who transfer from program with postseason ineligibility still have to go through a waiver process to gain permission to play right away. If those students contributed to the low APR at their former schools, that could impact whether or not they’re granted exemptions for immediate eligibility.

Hilliard was at Lamar only for the 2013-14 academic year, so his grades would not have impacted the school’s recent multi-year APR score, Dixon said.

Hilliard (6-0, 154) led Lamar with 14.1 points and 4.9 assists per game.

The Eagles’ nest also appears to be the landing spot for former Florida Gulf Coast guard Dajuan Graf.

There has been no announcement from NCCU’s athletics department about Graf coming to Durham.

But FGCU coach Joe Dooley said Graf is transferring to be closer to home.

Graf, from Charlotte, has been on Twitter either retweeting media reports that he’s about to suit up for NCCU or otherwise showing love for Coach LeVelle Moton’s program, which could use some help at the guard spot.

Both former NCCU point guard Emanuel Chapman and teammate Jeremy Ingram graduated in May.

Chapman last season led the MEAC with 214 assists (6.4 per game) and is NCCU’s all-time leader in that category with 617.

Ingram, a shooting guard, was the player of the year in the MEAC and averaged 20.8 points per game.

Graf (6-0, 170) averaged 4.9 points, 2.1 assists and 23 minutes per game last year as a sophomore for FGCU.

“Dajuan improved his game significantly from last year to this past season,” Dooley said.

NCCU could be the beneficiary of that development. Graf will have two years of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2014-15 season, according to the FGCU athletics department. He would be expected to miss a season at NCCU because of NCAA transfer rules.

After NCCU got off the floor in the Big Dance, rumors began circulating that Moton was being targeted for head-coaching jobs at Florida Atlantic and Marshall universities. Those vacancies have since been filled.

The presumed arrivals of Graf and Hilliard suggest that Moton is staying put in Durham, although NCCU spokeswoman Ayana Hernandez said the coach, who was a fantastic scorer during his playing days for the Eagles, has not received a new contract offering more money that tends to accompany milestone seasons.