WVU transfer Kerr Kriisa suspended 9 games for Arizona issue

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Myron MedcalfESPN Staff WriterOct 31, 2023, 01:05 PM ET3 Minute Read

West Virginia guard Kerr Kriisa, a transfer from Arizona, will serve a nine-game suspension this season after he admitted to accepting impermissible benefits during his time with the Wildcats, the school announced on Tuesday.

Kriisa, who averaged 9.9 PPG and 5.1 APG last season at Arizona, maintained his commitment to West Virginia after Bob Huggins resigned and retired this summer following a DUI arrest.

In its statement, West Virginia said it became aware of Kriisa’s potential violations in August.

“In late August 2023, West Virginia University learned of a potential eligibility concern for men’s basketball transfer student-athlete Kerr Kriisa, who admitted to receiving impermissible benefits while enrolled at the University of Arizona,” the statement said. “West Virginia worked cooperatively with the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement Staff to reach an appropriate resolution. As a result of his actions, Kriisa will miss nine (9) 2023-2024 regular season games as part of his eligibility reinstatement. Kriisa will be able to continue to practice and travel with the team during his suspension from competition. He accepts responsibility for his actions at Arizona and looks forward to joining his Mountaineer teammates on the floor.”

It’s unclear if Kriisa’s admission will impact Arizona, which is under probation for three years following the Independent Accountability Resolution Process decision on the NCAA infractions case against the university. In December, the IARP announced a 10-year show-cause penalty for former Arizona assistant Book Richardson, but no penalty against former head coach Sean Miller, who recently agreed to an extension at Xavier.

“The NCAA does not comment on specifics for eligibility cases, and the school(s) in question would be your best resource for more information,” NCAA spokeswoman Meghan Durham told ESPN.

As part of the IARP decision that was tied to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball in 2017, Arizona has been instructed to “inform all men’s basketball and swimming and diving prospective student-athletes in writing that the institution is on probation for three years, detailing violations committed.”

It’s also unclear what would constitute “impermissible benefits” in the name, image and likeness era. Messages to the NCAA were not immediately returned.

Kriisa is from Estonia and he played in Lithuania before his time at Arizona. NIL rules for international players are complicated by rules around student visas and the limitations on outside employment for those students.

In 2021, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a memo about NIL benefits for international students that said the organization had been “actively monitoring proposed federal and state legislation pertaining to the use of name, image and likeness for student athletes … The program is working with its partners within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to review how this legislation affects international student athletes.”

But a source told ESPN that the NCAA would not get involved if an international student received an NIL deal and it would not be considered impermissible benefits.

Kriisa’s suspension is the latest in a series of challenges for West Virginia, which was picked to finish ninth this season in the Big 12’s preseason poll.

In June, Huggins resigned and retired after a six-week stretch that included his use of a gay slur during a radio interview and later, a DUI arrest. A month later, Huggins sued the school and tried to get his job back, saying he never signed a letter of resignation. Josh Eilert, an assistant under Huggins last season, is now the interim head coach.

Earlier this month, the NCAA denied a transfer waiver for RaeQuan Battle, who averaged 17.7 PPG at Montana State last season but did not earn a degree from Montana State or Washington, his first school. West Virginia has appealed the ruling that denies Battle immediate eligibility.

And Akok Akok, who previously played at both UConn and Georgetown, is now at home and recovering after he collapsed in what the school called a “medical emergency” during a charity exhibition matchup against George Mason on Friday.

Kriisa, the Arizona transfer, arrived this offseason as a potential leader for a West Virginia team that will play its first season without Huggins on the sidelines since the 2007-08 campaign.

“I think we’re in a good spot right now,” Kriisa told ESPN at Big 12 media day when asked about his team’s ability to jell during a turbulent offseason. “I was never really worried about team chemistry.”

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