LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Kentucky coach John Calipari believes that freshman center Enes Kanter is an amateur and that Turkish club officials have "four million reasons" why they want him to return to Europe.
The NCAA is reviewing Kanter's status, though Calipari said Thursday he thinks the 6-foot-11 center will suit up for the Wildcats at some point this season.
"The kid, in my mind, is an amateur," Calipari said. "He never signed anything. He played on a club over in Europe. But how they rule that thing out, I have no idea."
Calipari said the recent relaxing of NCAA rules pertaining to the amateur status of foreign athletes made him comfortable offering a scholarship to Kanter.
"If you're under 18 years of age, you're not considered a professional in Europe anymore," Calipari said. "You couldn't sign a FIBA contract, so you have no contract, and any games you played against professional players now do not work against you. That's the new rules."
Calipari said Kanter, who turned 18 on May 20, received only the necessary expenses while playing for the team and that Kanter's family kept "meticulous" records to protect Kanter's status should it come into question.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that team officials claim they paid Kanter more than $100,000 in cash and benefits. Calipari said the club has a financial interest in wanting Kanter to return to Europe. The club would receive a transfer fee if Kanter plays in Europe rather than Kentucky.
"Obviously, one side wants him back," Calipari said. "There's four million reasons they want him back."
Calipari also discounted some of the claims by Turkish club officials regarding compensation made to Kanter.
"If you read some stuff in the newspaper, you would think, 'that's crazy,'" he said. "Well, a lot of it wasn't true."
Kanter has been cleared to practice with the Wildcats until the NCAA issues a ruling. Calipari hopes Kanter can replace DeMarcus Cousins, who left Kentucky after one season to play in the NBA.
Kanter has become a cult hero already on campus. "Free Enes" signs have sprouted up at home football games and T-shirts touting the phrase have become a hot seller.
Calipari said Kanter is handling the adversity well.
"It's a process he had to go through, I'm happy he's going through it and hopefully he'll be able to play and we won't have to worry about it anymore," he said.