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February 28, 2013

Orlando Sanchez Granted One Year Of Eligbility

QUEENS, N.Y.- St. John's head coach Steve Lavin announced Thursday afternoon that the NCAA staff approved a legislative relief waiver for 6-9, 221-pound forward Orlando Sanchez.

The highly-skilled and multidimensional native of the Dominican Republic will utilize his remaining season of eligibility in 2013-14 while completing a degree in sport management, where he currently owns a 3.48 cumulative grade point average and is on track to graduate next Spring.

"It's big news. I can play next year. I'm so happy," said Sanchez. "I'm going to call my Grandma right now and tell her the great news. I'm going to tell them 'I'm free. I can play.' I'd like to thank my lawyer Robert Orr, Coach Lavin, the entire staff, our Compliance staff, our fans, my teammates and everybody; thank you very much."

"We are pleased with the NCAA's decision to grant Orlando Sanchez a year of eligibility. We are grateful that he will be able to contribute on the court next season, as well as pursue his dream of earning his college degree. We are proud of how Orlando demonstrated patience and grace during this process," said Lavin.

"I am delighted to receive this good news for Orlando and St. John's. It is the right decision and I'm appreciative of the NCAA staff working with us in order to reconsider the waiver request. I'd like to thank the St. John's Administration and Coach Lavin for reaching out to me and the PoynerSpruill law firm to assist them in working on Orlando's case. They've been a great help. And finally, I also very much appreciate the interest in Orlando's story demonstrated by the media. He's an outstanding young man and it's always gratifying to see the right decision made," said Robert F. Orr of PoynerSpruill LLP, who represented Sanchez during the final appeal.

NCAA Director of Public and Media Relations Stacey Osburn provided the following in a statement: "St. John's University men's basketball student-athlete Orlando Sanchez has been granted an additional year of eligibility, according to a decision today by the NCAA national office staff. To prevent athletes from delaying college enrollment for athletic reasons, the member-created NCAA rule that governed Orlando's participation prior to his collegiate enrollment states that each year a student-athlete participates after their 21st birthday before college enrollment counts as a year of eligibility. However, in reaching its decision, the staff noted that both the student-athlete's personal circumstances and his minimal amount of competition with the Dominican Republic National Team warranted relief from the rule. Specifically, the staff pointed to new documentation presented by the institution supporting the assertion that the student-athlete was unable to enroll in high school in Spain and continue his education at that time. St. John's waiver request was denied and then appealed in November to an independent subcommittee, which is comprised of individuals across NCAA membership. After an unsuccessful appeal, St. John's stated it would submit new information so that the case could be reconsidered. When new and significant information becomes available, the NCAA is committed to examining the information so that the student-athlete's best interest may be served. The staff received and considered the new information this week."

With regard to Sanchez' skill on the court, Lavin said, "Orlando is as well-rounded and versatile an athlete as I've coached in my career. He has a uniquely diverse skill set for a player his size. He can play make, shot make, defend multiple positions, block shots and rebound. Orlando is a selfless team player, with a competitive spirit that will help us as we continue the efforts to elevate the St. John's basketball program."

A 2010-11 honorable mention JUCO All-American, Sanchez is a skilled and versatile basketball player. As a first-year player for Monroe, he averaged 8.5 ppg, an 11.5 rpg average that ranked seventh in the nation and 4.3 blocks which rated third among all junior college players. His freshman efforts led the Mustangs to a 31-5 record, the NJCAA Region XV title, the District III championship and a best-ever third-place finish in the 2011 NJCAA National Championship in Hutchinson, Kansas. His 10.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 3.0 bpg during Monroe's run earned Sanchez all-tournament honors.

Leading Monroe to a fifth-place national finish as a sophomore to earn All-NJCAA all-tournament honors once again in 2011-12, Sanchez averaged 10.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.2 apg and 1.9 bpg on the season and garnered second team NJCAA Region XV all-star accolades.

Though Sanchez won't be in action until the 2013-14 season, March begins on the road for the Red Storm with a visit to Providence on Saturday, March 2 (8 p.m., SNY).

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