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Kerr Kriisa being eligible at Arizona is important for more than basketball reasons

Photo courtesy Andri Kiige

We can complain that Kerr Kriisa isn’t eligible to play for the Arizona Wildcats until February 6, and wonder how the NCAA determined his seemingly random suspension length, but let’s be glad that we finally have some closure on the situation.

Kriisa having to wait months to hear when—or if—he was going to suit up this season was weighing on him, according to UA coach Sean Miller.

“You just have to imagine a young kid who makes a big decision in his life to come over here to the United States alone from Estonia to play college basketball, to attend our university, you have the COVID backdrop with it and he came here in the middle of August and he found out right before Christmas that he’s going to be OK,” Miller said Tuesday. “In his mind, it’s not just whether he’s going to play or not. You start to stress, ‘Am I going to be allowed to stay in the country? Am I going to be allowed to keep my scholarship? Am I going to be allowed to attend Arizona? When do I go back? How does that work? It’s really stressful. When I told him the news, he was just relieved. It wasn’t joy. It was just like, ‘Oh, thank God.’ He now knows his future. Like, he didn’t know anything every day for six months. So the fact that he knows he has a future, when he’s gonna play, that he can stay here, his mom was very relieved, he’s relieved and we’re obviously excited for him.”

Though Miller said he actually was heartbroken when he saw Kriisa’s reaction to the news.

“Because you forget every night he goes to bed he’s wondering, ‘Am I OK or am I not OK?’” Miller said. “He doesn’t live in California. So I’m happy that he has a chance to play and we’ve supported him all the way and he’s a big part of our future. He’s a very good player but he could be a great player down the road as he gets stronger.”

Kriisa is expected to add ball-handling and much-needed 3-point shooting to Arizona’s arsenal. While it will be a while before he finally plays in a game, he’s been a steady contributor in practice all season aside from the weekend he left to play for Estonia in FIBA qualifiers.

“The one thing that Kerr has done a good job of is he stayed with us, he left us briefly for the national team experience but he practices with us every day and he’s going to be able to travel,” Miller said. “So all that is really good. I mean, there’s nothing bad about about him moving forward. It’s all good. We’re happy for him. Academically, he’s a great student. He’s done a really good job this summer and the first semester, so he has a bright future and we’re really happy he’s a part of our program.”

Miller declined to comment on the reason Kriisa’s eligibility was in question and how the NCAA came to the conclusion of holding him out until Feb. 6.

“Yeah, I’m not sure,” he said.