The NCAA has suspended sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo for 23 games, making him eligible to play his first game this season Feb. 13 against Iowa State.
Kabongo "accepted impermissible benefits and then provided false statements about the situation", according to a statement released by the NCAA on Friday. He will repay approximately $475 in impermissible benefits to a charity of his choice. Texas self-imposed a 10-game suspension for Kabongo and requested the NCAA to reinstate him Nov. 13, four days after its season-opening win over Fresno State.
Kabongo missed his 11th game Wednesday, when the Longhorns beat No. 23 North Carolina, 85-67. The NCAA initially suspended Kabongo for the entire season last Friday before Texas appealed the decision Thursday and got the suspension reduced to 23 games.
"He made some mistakes early in this process, and he put himself in a tough position," head coach Rick Barnes said of Kabongo in a statement released Friday. "Despite what happened, he has been a great leader for this team and we will count on him to continue that as we move forward. When I talked to him tonight after the decision had been made, Myck's thoughts were only about our team and our program. That is a tribute to Myck and his family, and it tells you everything you need to know about Myck."
While the NCAA's release states that Kabongo "provided false and misleading information during separate interviews with university officials", Barnes' statement claims that "he was truthful and forthcoming when he talked with the NCAA."
The NCAA's statement also says that Kabongo "accepted airfare" and "personal training instruction. Yahoo! Sports reported in October that the NCAA was investigating allegations that Kabongo had a flight to Cleveland and workouts with former Longhorn and longtime friend Tristan Thompson in May paid for, possibly by agent Rich Paul. Among those represented by Paul include Thompson, former Longhorn Cory Joseph and Miami Heat superstar LeBron James.
"We are glad this is now behind us and happy Myck will get an important part of the season back," men's athletics director DeLoss Dodds said in a statement released Friday. "Myck has grown through this experience and continues to be an important part of the team. I know he will continue to be that and we're all looking forward to seeing him back on the court later this season."
Texas has gone 7-4 for this season in Kabongo's absence, falling to Chaminade, a NAIA squad, and USC in the Maui Invitational in November. The Longhorns lost consecutive games again this month when they fell to Georgetown and UCLA. They scored just 41 points in the loss to the Hoyas, the fewest in a game during Rick Barnes' 15-year tenure as Texas' head coach, and blew an eight-point lead with less than three minutes left in the defeat to the Bruins.
The Longhorns have also been without sophomore forward Jaylen Bond for all but five minutes against Chaminade this season while he nurses a left foot injury. They picked up their first big win of the year over the Tar Heels this week, a resume-building victory that should give them confidence heading into a matchup against No. 20 Michigan State in East Lansing on Saturday.
Freshman Javan Felix has started each of Texas' 11 games at point guard with Kabongo sidelined. He's averaged 8.6 points and 6.0 assists per game this year, shooting 31.3 percent from the floor.
Kabongo, who is projected as an early second-round pick by CBSSports.com and Draftexpress.com, averaged 9.6 points and 5.2 assists per game as a freshman last year. He will miss key conference games against Baylor (Jan. 5), Kansas (Jan. 19) and Oklahoma State (Jan. 24).