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The Mississippi State men's basketball program will have an international flavor even after they get back from their European exhibition tour.
MSU officials announced the signing of Latvian forward Kristers Zeidaks with the hope of getting the 6-foot-8 wing player eligible for the upcoming 2011-12 season.
Zeidaks, who will take the empty scholarship left by the withdrawal of center John Riek from the basketball program earlier this month, represented his country in the Under-20 European Championships last year. In six games, he led Latvia in scoring with 13.7 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 47.1 percent from the floor. 38.5 percent from beyond the three-point arc and collecting six steals. His best outing was against Greece, where he totaled 19 points.
The only difficulty right now to getting Zeidaks certified by the NCAA is the current review of his amateur status after playing in a club league with and against pro players in his home country.
State officials categorized in a media release as "extremely likely" he'll have to sit out some games at the start of this upcoming season.
MSU director of compliance Bracky Brett said in a phone interview Wednesday that the process was "not very complicated" and similar to the issues regarding State's international recruits in other non-revenue sports.
â€śLet me put it this way, these are issues that come up often with tennis, golf and other sports where those coaching staff do a lot of international recruiting,â€ť Brett said. â€śThis situation is just unique to the menâ€™s basketball office because itâ€™s not a recruiting route normally taken. Thatâ€™s why the timing drags on a little longer.â€ť
State has signed the 21-year-old to a financial aid agreement and he will have just three years of eligibility left because he previously enrolled at the University of Latvia but didn't play basketball because the school didn't offer athletics.
The 220-pound wing forward has played on the Latvian Under-16 and Under-18 national teams along with the best team in Latvian club basketball, Barons LMT, for a season.
Zeidaks, who State officials say prefers to go by "Kris" and does speak fluent English, is already academically eligible and accepted to Mississippi State University. He is expected to enroll at MSU in the fall term when classes start on August 17.