Gnonkonde Remains on Hold

North Carolina freshman Junior Gnonkonde is still playing the waiting game with his academic eligibility.

"He's enrolled at UNC now and participating in workouts," said John White, Lakeland (Ga.) Lanier County athletic director and Gnonkonde's legal guardian. "… But we're waiting. It should either be at the end of next week or early the following week before they'll either clear him or deny him."

Gnonkonde, who signed with UNC last February, was red-flagged by the NCAA Clearinghouse since his transcripts from two years of schooling in the Ivory Coast weren't submitted. He has attended Lanier County since his freshman year, but the Ivory Coast begins high school two years sooner. Thus, in order to determine his academic eligibility, the NCAA Clearinghouse wants to evaluate those two years in the Ivory Coast plus two years at Lanier County.

"He has all the classes that every United States kid had to have in order to go to UNC or any other school," White said.

According to White, Gnonkonde's Ivory Coast transcripts have been received, translated, and sent to the NCAA Clearinghouse. The process was slowed because the Clearinghouse requires the original transcripts – not a faxed copy.

In the event that Gnonkonde isn't cleared, UNC has a special waiver prepared, according to White. However, UNC can't file the waver until Gnonkonde is denied by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

In an effort to make sure all the correct steps are followed, White has hired an attorney who deals in NCAA matters.

"The attorney specializes in this stuff and based on the information he has obtained, they're going to get him eligible," White said. "I'm spending a lot of money on a lawyer that I really shouldn't have to spend. But we're doing everything possible for him to go to North Carolina."

Gnonkonde's situation isn't unprecedented.

"There were three kids from the Ivory Coast last year that fell into the same category – with the exception that they did part of their education in the Ivory Coast and only two years in the United States – and they were eventually cleared," White said. "Since Junior did all of his education in the United States, we're asking them to accept him as a normal high school student who was enrolled from the ninth grade on."

White is optimistic that everything will work out so that Gnonkonde will suit up in Carolina Blue. The question is when.

"The worst case scenario is we might not get [Gnonkonde] eligible in time to start football practice, because if they deny him then I have to withdraw him from school [until the waiver is decided on]," White said. "… I'm almost 100-percent sure in my mind that when school starts in the fall that Junior will be at North Carolina. That also means that I might have to bring him home for three weeks, which would put him behind as far as football is concerned. The people all the way up to the Chancellor's office at UNC, they feel very good that we're going to get [Junior] good before the first day of football practice."

Gnonkonde, a 6-foot-4, 215-pounder, is expected to compete for playing time at the Bandit position in UNC's 4-2-5 defense.

Unsurprisingly, the situation has been weighing on Gnonkonde, White said.

"I told him to go to class, work out and let us work it out on our end," White said.

Junior Gnonkonde Profile


Inside Carolina Top Stories