After serving four years in the U.S. Army in places like Afghanistan and Kuwait, Isaiah Brock was looking forward to returning home and beginning a new chapter of his life. The plan was to attend Oakland University and join the basketball team. Head coach Greg Kampe first watched him play in Kuwait in August of 2015 at an event put together by the Troops First Foundation and the two remained in contact ever since.
But the NCAA has intervened. They have found him ineligible. Not because his standardized test scores aren’t good enough but because the high school he attended (FIVE years ago!!) isn’t deemed as one that provides much “college preparedness.”
To understand Brock’s journey, we first gotta go back to what his job entailed during his Army service. In a nutshell, he was in charge of getting the dead bodies from fallen soldiers back home to their families. Here’s how he explained it to CBS Sports:
Isaiah Brock joined the Army in April 2012 and was eventually assigned to the 54th Quartermaster Mortuary Affairs Company. In simple terms, that means he spent parts of the past four years extracting dead soldiers from countries in which the United States is at war.
“I aided in the process of returning these fallen heroes back home,” Brock explained. “So we would basically look through all of their wounds, annotate everything, go through all of their belongings, and then … you know how there’s always a transfer case and then you have a flag draped over the top of the transfer case? That’s us. That’s what we do.”
And then there’s the story of how he eventually met the coach at Oakland while in Kuwait, where Kampe was among the American coaches participating in a Troops First Foundation program:
He was joined by fellow coaches Steve Lavin, Dino Gaudio, Jimmy Patsos, Pete Gillen, Gary Stewart, Ed Conroy and Reggie Minton. While there, Greg Kampe met Isaiah Brock, who was on Lavin’s team.
“We scrimmaged Lavin’s team one day, and there’s this 6-foot-8 kid who actually looks like he can play a little bit,” Kampe said. “I got to talking to him, and when I found out his story I was like … wow. Here’s a guy whose job is to go into the battlefield and extract bodies. The medics go and get the wounded. The ones who are dead, it’s his job to get them out.”
Brock told Kampe he planned to attend college after he was discharged.
Kampe was intrigued.
“I just thought maybe I could bring him to Oakland and give back and help this young man get his education,” Kampe said. “He’s got the GI Bill. But that doesn’t cover him like a scholarship would. And I thought him being around my players would just be unbelievable from a leadership perspective. I wanted my players to meet him and be around him. And if he ever played basketball, that would be awesome, too. So I told him I couldn’t promise playing time. But I told him I could give him an opportunity to experience college basketball.”
But after taking online courses and a couple of summer classes at Oakland, in which he got an A and B, the NCAA has ruled him ineligible because of the quality of high school education he received five years ago.
“They weren’t focused on college preparedness as a high school,” said Oakland athletic director Jeff Konya. “So Isaiah was technically a non-qualifier.”
To be clear, Brock has a qualifying standardized test score. And he’s shown the ability to do college-level work. It’s just that the NCAA is focused on a high school transcript from five years ago and using it to refuse to allow Brock to play this season.
“I don’t want to speak for the NCAA, but I think they put an emphasis on Isaiah Brock in 2011 and what his credentials at that time would suggest,” Konya said. “But Isaiah Brock in 2016 is a different person. He’s taken college classes and passed them with a 3.0. So if the issue is that he’s not prepared academically to do college work, I’d argue the proof is in the pudding.”