Kim Aiken Jr. will spend his final season of eligibility in an Arizona uniform after all.
The former Eastern Washington forward who originally committed to the Wildcats in the spring before signing with Washington State, will return to Arizona this fall, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello reported.
According to WSU coach Kyle Smith, Aiken Jr. was denied admission into the school’s political science graduate program despite maintaining a 3.48 grade-point average at EWU. Aiken Jr. signed a letter of intent with the Cougars and had been practicing with the team, but reportedly never enrolled in classes.
In a text message to The Spokesman-Review, Smith called Aiken Jr.’s loss “a tough pill to swallow.”
The odds of Aiken Jr. returning to Arizona still seemed fairly low after the reigning Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year was placed on a waiting list in Tucson when Tommy Lloyd was hired to replace Sean Miller as the Wildcats’ coach.
Aiken Jr.’s initial commitment to the Wildcats came the day before Miller was fired and Lloyd immediately brought in two frontcourt players, picking up a commitment from 7-foot high school prospect Dylan Anderson and bringing in Gonzaga transfer Oumar Ballo.
In April, after committing to WSU, Aiken Jr. detailed his recruiting process at Arizona in a phone interview with the S-R.
“I was talking to (Sean) Miller. He was definitely very interested and high in getting back to that (NCAA) tournament, especially with the postseason ban they had imposed on them this year,” Aiken Jr. said. “But, when everything got changed, it just felt as if the interest in me in Arizona wasn’t the same. Everything looked like it was going in a whole different direction. Tommy Lloyd got in, he signs one of the dudes from Chandler, Arizona, and signs Big O (Oumar Ballo) which makes sense because he was at Gonzaga as his recruit.
“But after that point I was like, hey man, I can provide the same services for you and I’m already committed. But they’re trying to put me on a waiting list, seems like they’re trying to achieve other players and it didn’t seem like I was that great of an asset for him.”
Aiken Jr. led the Big Sky in rebounding with 8.4 per game and averaged more than 11 points last season, helping the Eagles win a Big Sky Conference title and nearly upset Kansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Cougars will see Aiken Jr. and Arizona once this season. The Wildcats are scheduled to visit Pullman, but 2021-22 Pac-12 rotations won’t send the Cougars back down to Tucson.
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