Maxime Chupin Ruled Ineligible

UC Irvine men’s basketball received more bad news this week as freshman center Maxime Chupin was officially ruled ineligible by the NCAA.

“They didn’t certify his amateurism,” Head Coach Russell Turner said. “[The NCAA’s] ruling is that they viewed his [previous club agreement] as a professional contract. We knew he got paid, we submitted the contract, but it was our understanding that the amount he got paid was significantly less than the expenses limit.”

The NCAA decision-making process stretched out for the entire year, with initial hopes of Maxime getting a decision last fall.

“It’s been really hard,” Chupin said. “I tried to stay positive hoping that a positive answer would arrive and unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”

Chupin arrived in Irvine from the Cholet Basketball Club in France as a late summer signing. Touted as a well-rounded player who could shoot 3-pointers while playing down low, Chupin never saw playing time for the Anteaters.  Chupin was able to practice with the team while the NCAA addressed an appeal from UCI, but Chupin sat in street clothes on the sidelines during games.

“He would have meant a great amount to our team this year and for future years. He’s an outstanding communicator and very, very smart player who has the ability to make others better … [Chupin would have been] one of the best defenders in the conference,” Turner said.

Turner said that the 6-foot-9-inch, 220-pound Chupin plans on returning to his home of France after the academic quarter ends. Chupin was a member of the French U18 National Team in 07-08, and figures to play professionally back home. Turner was glowing in his praise for Chupin.

“I don’t think there’s anybody I feel better about in terms of his character, the man he is,” Turner said. “That’s what is so disappointing, because it feels like this is just the kind of guy you want representing the NCAA. And for him to not be allowed to play is hard to process, to make sense of.”

Turner admitted that it will be hard not to be more tentative when recruiting overseas in the future, but reiterated that UCI will continue recruiting foreign players with a careful attention to detail.

“[The process was] one that was painful and long,” Turner said while emphasizing that he wasn’t blaming the NCAA. “I don’t think there’s ever an international case that’s the same as another one. It’s a learning experience for us. It’s a new rule this year, so there wasn’t really precedence that we could base our expectations to. Clearly now there is precedence.”

The Anteaters now have four open scholarships for next year. Chupin’s ruling combined with forward Eric Wise’s decision not to return to UCI means that center Adam Folker, who sat out last year with multiple injuries, is the only returning player taller than 6-feet-6-inches. Despite this daunting outlook, Folker remained positive.

“Losing Eric and more recently Maxime does affect our team next year and they will both be greatly missed on and off the court,” Folker said. “[But] personally I don’t feel additional pressure as one of the only returning senior big men. [UCI does] everything as a team and our underclassmen are working hard.”

Chupin maintains a positive attitude about his time in Irvine. He says he will leave with no regrets.

“I didn’t know what to expect coming here, and [it turns out] I’ve found a great place,” Chupin said. “It’s really sad because i could have earned my degree here and that would have been great for my career, but unfortunately that’s not the case. So I will just enjoy the moments I have left here.”