Kojo Mensah in limbo at Siena
Kojo Mensah, a star guard whose 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.5 steals per game as a sophomore helped carry the Siena basketball team to its successful 15-13 record last season, requested a release from the school last month. To this date, Siena has denied the 21-year-old New York native a release, yet last week declined to renew his scholarship. Essentially, Kojo is being held hostage.
Siena's president, Rev. Kevin Mackin, last week told the Albany Times Union that they "don't want a player coming here and using Siena as a stepping stone to another conference... I'm disappointed, not so much in Kojo but in his advisers. I don't think they're giving him good advice. It's unfortunate for Kojo."
Here's the problem. Colleges exist to be stepping stones. They prepare students for life. You go to a college, get what you can get out of it, and then you leave, hopefully for better things. Why should a school have any say in what a kid does when he's no longer at that college?
What Siena may do is eventually grant a conditional release, where Mensah is free to go anywhere except for certain schools. I never understood why colleges can control what former student-athletes do after they leave. The kids aren't being paid. They generate millions of dollars for schools, in exchange for a free ride. Yet the students don't always have complete freedom once they're no longer with the program. Why?
Whether Kojo's advisor gave good advice or not should also be irrevelant when it comes to Siena. The kid wants to leave. Siena hasn't renewed his basketball scholarship. He wants to be a student-athlete somewhere else. Let the kid go.
It doesn't make sense to suggest that Mensah isn't doing anything wrong -- which is correct, he isn't -- and then refuse to respect his wishes. And essentially imprison him.
Mensah has some very loud backers. His advisor and friend, Norm Ostrin, is famous in New York for helping kids, urging them to do well in school, work hard, be good people, and stay away from agents until the kids are ready for a professional career. Ostrin has a fantastic reputation. Mensah also has the support of a highly-respected attorney, Michael Rosenblatt, who is so moved by the situation that he's working pro bono. Legendary actor Louis Gossett Jr., a life-long friend of Ostrin's, has also been quoted in several newspapers as saying he's ready to use his influence to help Mensah.
Mensah is now backed into a corner. Siena has revoked his scholarship, taken away his financial aid, and taken away right to attend whatever school he wants. It's bad for the kid and generating negative publicity for the school. No one wins.
Even if it's within Siena's right to do this, they shouldn't. It's going to hurt their recruiting ability as word spreads about the situation. Immediately, Siena should grant Mensah an unconditional release, wish him the best, and make up an excuse about paperwork or something and apologize for any misunderstandings.