DeJuan Clayton saga may soon end for struggling Jaspers

Gallagher is awaiting word from the NCAA on eligibility


The waiting game on DeJuan Clayton’s eligibility could be nearing an end soon. But then again, the 26-year-old nomadic guard has had to wait four months and counting for a final verdict on the future of his college basketball career, with the Jaspers simply hoping for good news to lighten up their 4-11 record.

Clayton’s whirlwind journey has involved four schools and has been extended due to injuries and the extra year granted by the NCAA due to the pandemic. Clayton spent last season at University of California, Berkeley, where he was limited to nine games due to injury. The season before that Clayton played in only two games at University of Hartford due to a shoulder injury, thus securing his second medical redshirt and setting up the move to California.

Clayton spent his first five seasons at Coppin State, including a six-game sophomore campaign which was the initial medical redshirt. Technically speaking, Clayton has not used a year of his eligibility since the 2019-2020 season due to injuries and the pandemic.

Clayton’s decision to transfer to Manhattan first became public knowledge in September. His arrival marked a reunion with Manhattan head coach John Gallagher, who coached Clayton at Hartford during the 2021-2022 college basketball season.

Gallagher believes a decision is close and sounded optimistic when speaking on the topic following Manhattan’s 81-68 loss to first-place Saint Peter’s on Sunday at Draddy Gymnasium.

“We’ll find out about DeJuan Clayton here in my opinion in the next seven days and I’m optimistic about that,” Gallagher said of the career 12.7 points per game scorer. 

Manhattan has not received much three-point shooting success this season as Gallagher expected, sitting at a mediocre 29.4 percent which ranks second to last in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Although Clayton is traditionally more of a slashing player who is lethal off the dribble, he did shoot a career-high 37.7 percent last season from the three-point stripe despite converting only 29.3 percent for his career.

Although their last stint together was transient, Gallagher saw good reason to reunite with the Maryland native, as the letter of the law states that any player who plays in less than 10 games, or under 30 percent of their team’s games, has grounds for earning a medical redshirt to avoid losing a year of eligibility. Clayton ended up playing in only 28 percent of games played by the Golden Bears.

However, the NCAA initially denied Manhattan’s request for a waiver to make Clayton eligible. The Jaspers appealed the rejection back in October. But the NCAA bureaucracy has dragged on the process and have left the Jaspers in limbo like other programs in a similar spot.

By Tuesday, Gallagher said Manhattan was “waiting patiently” on something to give from the NCAA, who last month reached an agreement with a federal court in West Virginia to upgrade a temporary restraining order to a preliminary injunction for two-time transfers to be immediately eligible in 2024. Previously, the NCAA rules required two-time transfers to sit out a competitive season before becoming eligible again.

All the evidence Gallagher needs to make the case for Clayton is the fact that Seth Towns is playing for Howard this season after he too exceeded the two-time category, going from Harvard to Ohio State to the small Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference school.

“The frustrating thing is Seth Towns is playing at Howard,” Gallagher said in a phone interview between Christmas and New Year’s Day. “That’s my only comment.”

If the NCAA signals the green light on Clayton’s eligibility, he will become the first college basketball player to appear in eight different seasons. Clayton will turn 27 in May.

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