Oklahoma State holds out star guard Jeffrey Carroll amid eligibility concerns

Oklahoma State will hold out leading returning scorer Jeffrey Carroll. (AP)

Already projected to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 this season after losing its head coach and three of its four leading scorers last spring, Oklahoma State now faces an even steeper road to relevance.

The school announced Friday that it is withholding the Big 12’s leading returning scorer, Jeffrey Carroll, from game action during its review of its men’s basketball program. Carroll will continue to practice with the team, the school said.

Oklahoma State did not specify whether the decision was related to the FBI investigation into  college basketball, but it’s not hard to connect the dots. The school fired former assistant coach Lamont Evans with cause last month after he was arrested for his role in a bribery scheme.

A federal complaint alleged that Evans accepted $2,000 a month in bribes to funnel potential NBA prospects to certain agents and financial advisers. Carroll, a 6-foot-6 guard who averaged 17.5 points and 6.6 rebounds last season, appears to be one of the players Evans was targeting.

Carroll is one of a handful of players whose college careers are in jeopardy as a result of the FBI investigation.

Auburn is holding out standouts Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy rather than risking having to vacate potential victories for playing ineligible players. Louisville has also suspended prized freshman Brian Bowen indefinitely for similar reasons.

The loss of Carroll is devastating to an Oklahoma State team that reached the NCAA tournament last season under former coach Brad Underwood but lost leading scorer Jawun Evans to the NBA draft and fellow starting guard Phil Forte to graduation. For the time being, new coach Mike Boynton also doesn’t have Davon Dillard and Zach Dawson, both of whom were suspended Thursday for “failure to meet team standards.”

Oklahoma State opens the season Friday night against Pepperdine. The Cowboys will face the likes of Wichita State, Texas A&M and Florida State before Big 12 play begins.