The NCAA has waived the requirement for Malik Smith to establish residence for a year before playing for the Gophers men's basketball team, meaning he will be eligible to play immediately next season, the school announced Wednesday.
Said coach Richard Pitino in a news release: "We are certainly excited that the NCAA has approved the waiver for Malik. He is a great addition to the roster given his skills and invaluable knowledge of how we run our program."
Smith, a 6-2 guard who averaged 14.1 points per game playing for Pitino at Florida International last season, has just one remaining season of eligibility, meaning his spot (and scholarship) will be open again for the high school class of 2014.
The Gophers had prepared a case based on the NCAA bylaw exception that states student-athletes can be eligible for a waiver if their former institution is banned from the postseason for the remaining years of their eligibility. FIU received such a ban last month when Academic Progress Rate numbers were released, failing to reach the NCAA's minimum. The ruling was based on the school's four-year average, meaning that neither Pitino, nor Smith — both of whom were only at FIU for one year — had much to do with it.
The Gophers are also working on a different waiver for Joey King that would make the Drake transfer and former Eastview standout immediately eligible.
• The Gophers will face Syracuse in the first round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational on Nov. 25. A very early ESPN.com Top 25 has Syracuse ranked No. 8 in the country.
Saints are back home
The Saints open a five-game series with the Grand Prairie AirHogs on Thursday night at Midway Stadium. The teams will play a doubleheader (two seven-inning games) on Friday beginning at 6 p.m., with about 30 minutes between games. One ticket is good for both games.
The doubleheader will be the sixth of the season for the Saints, breaking the franchise record, which was set in 2000.
The USA Football Network, Inc. has named its Division III Receiver of the Year award in honor of former Saint John's standout Blake Elliott, who last played for the Johnnies during their national championship season of 2003.