STILLWATER — All along, Jéan-Paul Olukemi maintained faith that the NCAA would eventually rule his way.
Wednesday, the NCAA came through, granting his appeal for a waiver that allows him to play a full final season at Oklahoma State.
For the player, it's a reprieve on an inadvertent mistake made five years ago.
For the Cowboys, it's a needed break after losing swingman Brian Williams for the season to a wrist injury. Olukemi averaged 11.1 points as a sophomore at OSU, with 20 double-figure scoring games, before averaging 9.4 points a game a year ago before suffering a season-ending injury.
“We would like to thank the NCAA for its due diligence in this matter,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said. “Looking out for the student-athlete and their best interests should be what's most important, and it certainly showed in this decision.”
Olukemi's second-semester status had been in jeopardy, after it was discovered he'd unknowingly started his basketball eligibility clock. The issue dates back to Olukemi's one year at Stoneridge Preparatory School in Simi Valley, Calif. During the basketball season, the school's team was shut down and Olukemi was instructed by his coaches to attend classes at a nearby junior college to remain eligible.
Instead, the clock was ticking on his college career. And it's that final semester — fast-forward to now — which was in danger of being lost, before Wednesday's ruling.
“They granted the waiver, which is great news for JP,” said Kevin Fite, OSU's director of compliance. “He's eligible to complete the season.
“Very happy for the kid. Obviously, he's happy. Travis and his staff and the whole team are happy for him. JP is a good kid and a good student. He'll walk out of here with a diploma. And he gets to play this final year.”
Olukemi, a 6-foot-6 swingman, missed the second half of last season after tearing knee ligaments in a New Year's Eve loss to Virginia Tech.
Sitting out all of Big 12 Conference play, he said, was a struggle, especially while dealing with his own rehab and recovery.
“The recovery has been good, it's just been a long, long thing,” Olukemi said. “To watch the team go through the season and knowing I couldn't just put on a jersey and play was the thing that messed with me the most. We were struggling and I couldn't do anything to help them.”
Ironically, if the NCAA had not granted Olukemi's appeal, his final game as a Cowboy would have been this New Year's Eve, when OSU is scheduled to play Gonzaga.