The NCAA declared the Kentucky freshman "permanently ineligible" Thursday, a ruling Kentucky plans to appeal later this month.
"Enes Kanter is like my son or any of your sons out there. He got nothing from anybody except his dad, and his dad did not do anything wrong. His dad did all the things he thought were going to make sure his son stayed an amateur. No one can argue the point that this kid wanted to be an amateur, and so did his father," Calipari said.
"Now if they did some things they didn't know were wrong by our rules, maybe. But they didn't do anything wrong. And I feel bad. So we're going to look at the appeal and thinking that common sense people will look at this in a common sense way and say, ‘You know what, the kid deserves better than this.'
"But again, I respect the decision they made because it is hard. This is one they have not seen. And now it is like, ‘Well, wait a minute.' Educational expenses. We've never seen this before. They're things they haven't seen. I respect what they've done. I just don't agree with it.
"That's all I am going to say. If you ask me another question, I am not going to answer it."
Kanter was on the bench in street clothes when teammates where shooting about an hour before the game and sat on the bench in a UK warm-up suit during the game while showing very little emotion.
Kanter played three seasons with the Turkish sport club Fenerbahce from 2006-07 to 2008-09. He competed primarily for the club's under-18 junior team, he did compete on the club's senior team in 2008-09. According to facts agreed to by the university and the NCAA Eligibility Center, Kanter received $33,033 more than his expenses for the 2008-09 season before he came to the United States and played at Stoneridge Prep in California. He originally committed to Washington, but signed with Kentucky and was expected to give UK the inside presence it needed after losing three interior players — DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton — off last year's 35-3 team in the first round of the NBA draft.
Reports have indicated the bulk of the $33,000 was spent on Kanter's education and the rest of the money placed in an escrow account that has not been used.
Kanter was part of UK's No. 1 recruiting class and his fellow classmates took the news hard that he would not be able to play pending the appeal. He can stay on scholarship even if he loses the appeal — UK has the right to make that decision — but he will not be able to practice. He was able to practice Thursday after he was declared ineligible and will be able to continue to do so until a ruling is issued on his appeal.
Guard Doron Lamb said he was "upset" when he heard about Kanter being ineligible.
"I've just tried to cheer him up and pick him up," Lamb said after scoring 20 points in the win. "He loves basketball, but he loves us more. Enes is great. He's a cool kid. He works hard. He wants to play. We want him to play. He did nothing wrong.
"He is with us a lot and we would be a way better team if we had him. I am still hoping he can play not only because he is such a great player, but because he is a great guy, too."
Forward Terrence Jones, who had 25 points and 12 rebounds, said it was "sad" to hear the NCAA news.
"I didn't want to just keep talking to him about it because everybody else was," Jones said. "He is one of my brothers. When he hurts, I hurt. He comes by our room every night. He's a big part of the team. He would really have a big role if he could play. He makes everybody better. We would love to have him."
"It's going to be hard without him," junior guard DeAndre Liggins said. "We've got to find a way to defend the post without him. I told him just to keep his head up and maybe he would be back with us. We need him. Everybody knows that. We need Enes, but if his appeal does not work out we just have to find some way to make out."
Liggins says Kanter seems to be coping with the news as well as could be expected.
"He seems okay. He doesn't look like it is bothering him that much," Liggins said. "He's staying in shape and practicing hard. He seems okay and has the right attitude about him.
"He's staying in the gym and really working. He's still laughing and joking with us. He's just trying to ignore everything going on because it is not in his hands. I just wish there was something we could do to help him."