Final Hurdle for Gnonkonde

Before beginning his collegiate career, North Carolina signee Junior Gnonkonde has one more obstacle to overcome.

"We've found out that the NCAA [Clearinghouse] has red-flagged any kid from the Ivory Coast because of the educational system that they follow," Lakeland (Ga.) Lanier County athletic director John White said. "For some odd reason, the kids in the Ivory Coast only go to school for ten years. Actually they don't go to middle school. They start high school at 11 years old.

"So there's an issue of the NCAA only wants to count four years you're in high school. They want to count a couple of years that he went to high school in the Ivory Coast and only two of the years that he want to high school here."

Gnonkonde was originally a Georgia Tech commitment, but 11 months after committing – and two weeks before Signing Day – Georgia Tech rescinded its scholarship offer, saying Gnonkonde did not clear the school's admissions process.

Gnonkonde needs to send the NCAA Clearinghouse his transcripts from his former high school in the Ivory Coast in order for his academic eligibility to be determined. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound defensive end's eligibility will then be determined from his combined core GPA from both high schools.

Further complicating the situation, the NCAA Clearinghouse won't accept a faxed copy of the transcripts. All transcripts must be the original copy from the respective high schools. Thus, Gnonkonde must obtain the original transcripts, send them to UNC, and then UNC will send them to the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Gnonknode has already requested the transcripts and they are expected to arrive Thursday. They won't reach the NCAA until next week.

Off his transcripts from Lanier County alone, plus his test scores, the NCAA Clearinghouse originally deemed Gnonknode academically eligible, according to White. But once his grades from the high school in the Ivory Coast are also considered, Gnonkonde's core GPA will likely change.

If Gnonknode is ruled ineligible after the Ivory Coast's high school's transcripts are considered, UNC is ready to file a waiver to make him eligible.

This isn't the first time that a situation similar to this has occurred.

"We found out there were three kids last year from the Ivory Coast that went to Auburn University and the College of Charleston to play basketball," White said. "And on the additional grounds, the NCAA didn't clear them because of whatever their [combined] GPA was in the Ivory Coast and United States… The University of Auburn had to apply for a waiver and they were granted. And then the College of Charleston did the same thing.

"So it's a paperwork process that we're running into."

White has encountered the same problem with two additional Lanier County students, who are also Ivory Coast natives that have signed with schools to play basketball.

"The NCAA red-flags every kid from the Ivory Coast," White said.

According to White, Gnonknode has cleared UNC admissions, is set to depart for Chapel Hill on Friday, and figures to enroll in the second summer semester.

"As far as the information I got when I talked to [Director of Football Operations] Joe Haydon [on Tuesday], he has talked with the people that are involved in making that decision and they've accepted [Gnonknode] and are allowing him to enroll in summer school," White said. "That way he can go ahead and get started. He said usually they don't like to do that, but in this case we already have three documented cases where the NCAA approved it."

Furthermore, White and Gnonknode haven't even considered a back-up plan.

"North Carolina has already begun the process early enough, they're preparing the waiver, so then if they don't [clear] him they'll go ahead and ask for a waiver," White said. "I just know that all three times that it was done of a similar circumstance, they've granted a waiver.

"I plan on driving to North Carolina on Friday and enrolling him in school on Monday. We have no other plans – period."

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