In a season that has featured more than its share of adversity, the UNLV men’s basketball team received some more bad news on Wednesday.
Freshman forward Derrick Jones Jr. has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA after his ACT score was ruled invalid.
Jones, who played at Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor, Pa., about 18 miles north of Philadelphia, took the standardized test about 100 miles south at a testing center in the Baltimore area that has drawn the attention of the NCAA, which is also looking into the test scores of several other athletes.
Jones’ attorney, Don Jackson, told ESPN.com that the NCAA notified UNLV in the summer that the score was red-flagged. However, the NCAA Eligibility Center later cleared Jones to play before the team’s Nov. 13 opener against Cal Poly.
In its statement released Wednesday morning, UNLV said it would have no further comment on the matter “until it is resolved.” However, Jones told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that he “thought the entire thing was over. I played all season. I was in shock. I just don’t understand it.
“When my coach told me, it broke my heart. I started crying. I just don’t get why they are doing this. I’m trying to figure out why.”
The timing of the suspension was widely criticized on Twitter.
Jones is clearly qualified and performing at a high level in college. Why now? This one doesn't sit well…. https://t.co/fkpMtbTne3
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) March 2, 2016
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) March 3, 2016
Jones, who declined to re-take the test or go through an arbitration process when originally notified by the NCAA of a potential problem, said he has a 3.25 GPA at UNLV and that he took a pair prep classes to prepare to take the ACT.
“I took the test. It was me,” he told ESPN. “I didn’t cheat. I didn’t do anything wrong. I just don’t understand it.”
UNLV is filing a waiver to try and get eligible to play the remainder of the season. The Runnin’ Rebels (17-13) conclude Mountain West play on Saturday night at San Diego State and then begin conference tournament play next week.
The timing couldn’t be worse for an already thin UNLV squad that needs to win the Mountain West tournament to get an NCAA Tournament berth. Jones, who is averaging 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds this season, averaged 24 points and eight rebounds in the Rebels’ last two contests.
DERRICK JONES JR. PHOTO BY SAM MORRIS/LAS VEGAS NEWS BUREAU