Everybody likes to go their own way—to choose their own time and manner of devotion.” — Jane Austen, “Mansfield Park”
The decision to come home wasn’t easy.
Royce O’Neale was forced to choose between his immediate family, those who raised him, and the Denver family who has supported him and helped him through his first two years of college.
Following a two-week recruitment process after being granted a medical hardship release from his basketball scholarship at the University of Denver, the former Harker Heights standout reportedly decided to transfer to Baylor.
The next step, though, could be the toughest.
O’Neale must wait to see if the NCAA will grant him a hardship waiver to play immediately.
Normally, per NCAA policy, a student-athlete must submit to a “year-in-residence” before playing for a new school to ensure the transfer wasn’t simply for athletic purposes.
But there are extenuating circumstances the NCAA can take into account, mostly when it pertains to personal situations that are out of the player’s control.
That is certainly the case for O’Neale, who opted to transfer to be closer to his ailing grandfather, Willie Kingwood, who helped raise him. Kingwood has been dealing with heart trouble as a result of diabetes. Kingwood was relegated to a nursing home for a month after falling and fracturing his hip.
The NCAA needs to make the right decision — to let O’Neale play.
Kingwood, who turned 76 on May 1, was a staple at all of O’Neale’s basketball games when he was a member of the Knights, attending with his wife when O’Neale’s mother, Deborah Kingwood, had work commitments that took her out of state.
He wasn’t always the loudest cheerleader, but Willie Kingwood’s presence wasn’t missed, least of all by O’Neale, himself a reserved young man.
CBSSports.com is reporting O’Neale is one of more than 400 NCAA basketball players who opted to transfer this offseason. After more than 450 players transferred last year, it’s a growing concern, especially for coaches. Michigan basketball coach John Beilein recently decried that all transfers, regardless of situation, should be required to sit out a year.
That’s simply ridiculous, especially coming from a head coach who has the power to jump from one program to the next with little if any repercussions. The punishment doesn’t even make sense for those athletes transferring solely for athletic purposes. Permitting that could cause a wholesale shift of power within the ranks of the NCAA.
If the NCAA’s true purpose is to look out for the best interest of the student-athlete, transfers must be allowed.
And when it comes to O’Neale, the decision should be easy.
Let him be with his grandfather. Let him come home.
Let him be with his family.