Wilkins Trying to Clear Hurdle to Play in '08

Bloomington – John Wilkins' hopes of playing Division I basketball this fall have taken him home to France for a couple of days. Find out why Wilkins went home, when he's returning, and where things stand for this prospective 2008 Hoosier recruiting target...

Bloomington – With a multitude of college options to consider, big man John Wilkins is in a race against time to get everything in place so he can play Division I basketball this fall.

After impressing a slew of college coaches during the July evaluation period, the 6'9", 205-pound forward from France flew back home Sunday to gather all of his academic records and personal belongings. Illinois Wolves AAU Coach Mike Mullins said Wilkins should return to the U.S. by the middle or end of next week with the necessary paperwork to begin the process of getting cleared to play Division I this season.

With the start of the first semester at most universities now less than a month away, the hope is Wilkins can get cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse and get released by his amateur club team back home in time to be a member of the 2008 recruiting class.

"We're trying to not put the cart before the horse until it's time, and that's making sure he has his release from his amateur club over there and that he has the proper grades to get in," Mullins said. "Otherwise we're just wasting everyone's time."

While Wilkins is a very good student, getting cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse expeditiously can be an issue. That's particularly been the case in recent years after some of the issues with a handful of U.S. prep schools that were discovered to be little more than "diploma mills" for aspiring basketball players to gain admittance to Division I schools.

"There have been some hold-ups in the recent past here," Mullins said. "They're not just rubber stamping foreign kids to come through anymore."

If Wilkins can get cleared, he has a slew of options to ponder. Mullins said Indiana, Kentucky, LSU, DePaul, Providence, Michigan, Iowa and Rhode Island are among the schools that have expressed an interest in bringing Wilkins in this fall.

"There are probably about 40 schools that have inquired about him," Mullins said.

The challenge for Wilkins will be to get cleared in time to give thoughtful consideration to some of his options. His father, Jeff, has been communicating with college coaches while his son is gathering his belongings in France, and the hope is father and son will have a short working list to work with if and when John is cleared.

No matter how quickly the NCAA Clearinghouse can look at Wilkins' paperwork, Mullins said the family won't have a great deal of time to travel to visit schools, a fact that could benefit those that are closer to the elder Wilkins' Gary, Ind., home.

"Geographically with his father living in Indiana, it's easier to visit places in the Midwest than jumping on planes all over," Mullins said. "I don't think he'd be able to visit a lot of places, whether it's by car or by plane."

There remains a possibility that the timing will be such that Wilkins can't get cleared to play this fall, and would then have to wait until 2009. That would free him up to return home to France if he chose to do so, but Mullins thinks he'd opt to stay in the U.S. and attend prep school for a year and then be a member of the 2009 class.

"I think he's had three options since he came here - one, if it doesn't work and he can go back home; two it doesn't work out but he likes the opportunities over here and he goes to prep school; or three it all goes smoothly and he gets to go to the college of his choice," Mullins said.

"I don't think those three choices have changed. My gut feeling tells me, so long as he's released from his club back in France, is he'd stay here and go to prep school if (playing in 2008) doesn't work out. His goal is to play basketball in the United States."

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