Oakland basketball to appeal NCAA ruling on Army vet

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Isaiah Brock

Oakland University officials hope to have an appeal, technically called a "reconsideration," prepared to send to the NCAA at some point next week as it attempts to overturn a controversial ruling that has benched basketball player and Army veteran Isaiah Brock.

Brock just finished serving five years in the Army, including deployments in combat zones Afghanistan and Kuwait.

But the NCAA recently ruled him academically ineligible because of his 5-year-old, high-school grade-point average.

Oakland hopes for an answer from the NCAA in 10 days.

"If the NCAA would know Isaiah as a person, gotten to know him as we've gotten to know him," said Oakland athletic director Jeff Konya, "then I think they wouldn't have any doubt in terms of getting to what we think is the right result."

Brock, a native of Baltimore, is a 6-foot-8, 191-pound forward who hopes to be able to play during the 2016-17 season.

If the NCAA upholds its ruling, he'll have to sit out a year and continue taking classes at Oakland before trying again for the 2017-18 season.

The story has gained national attention from several media outlets, which could play into the favor of Oakland and Brock.

"He's not Michael Jordan," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said Saturday. "This is not a college coach trying to come up with a scoop on all the other colleges.

"If I got to talk to the NCAA straight-up, what I would say is this: 'I went to Kuwait (in 2015) and when I left there nine days later, I was a changed person. I saw things. You just don't understand or realize what's going on over there."

Brock, 22, caught Kampe's attention during the Hardwood Classic at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait in 2015.

Brock's Troops First Foundation's team played against Kampe's team -- though it wasn't necessarily on the court where Kampe found himself mesmerized.

It was, in fact, afterward, during a meet-and-greet with troops where the coaches were telling stories to entertain the troops. But with Brock, Kampe found himself doing all the listening.

"I wanted to give back. I wanted to help a veteran," Kampe said. "This kid had told me how he wants to go to school. I said, 'I'll give you a college-basketball experience. You may never play.' Now that he's here, he's gotten so much better.

"He was 6-foot in high school, he's 6-8 now. We put in the post the first day (of practice) and threw the ball into him, and he had no idea what to do with it. Now, he made a jump hook (Friday) in practice.

"He's going to play some before it's over."

Kampe gave Brock a scholarship.

Brock took two classes while he was deployed overseas, and took two this past summer at Oakland. In the four classes, he got three Bs and an A, for a cumulative GPA of better than 3.0.

Kampe said he's had discussions with Brock about graduating in three years, unless his basketball career really takes off, which is a long shot. A three-year degree will be tough to do if the NCAA doesn't reconsider.

"The bottom line, he's 22 years old, he wants to get his degree and move on with his life," Kampe said. "He doesn't want to be here five years."

Oakland is feverishly compiling a file of paperwork that officials believe, in Kampe's estimation, Brock isn't just academically prepared for Oakland, but that he'll eventually wind up on the Dean's list.

The file will include his marks and decorations while in the Army -- where he learned, among other skills, mortuary science, getting fallen soldiers off the battle field, closing up wounds and preparing them to be sent home -- and his work in the classroom, overseas and at Oakland.

Meanwhile, the story of Oakland and Brock could prove to be a major case in determining in the future how colleges and universities across the country weigh real-life experience in the armed services, as opposed to dated high-school GPAs, when it comes to admission standards.

After all, many kids who had a tough time in high school enter the military to grow up, and return home greatly changed and matured.

"We just have to go through the process and we have to do a better job of showing who Isaiah is in 2016, as opposed to 2011-12, so that everybody's comfortable he can do academic coursework at the college level," Konya said. "That's basically our burden in this reconsideration phase, and we'll see where it goes."

Brock could not be immediately reached for comment.

In other Oakland news, freshman forward James Edwards Jr., the son of the former Piston nicknamed "Buddha," will redshirt this season.


Twitter @tonypaul1984