SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - For a number of Africans, enrolling in U.S colleges and pursuing a student-athlete career represents the dream of a lifetime. However, for others, the laws of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have turned into a obstacle that is hard to overcome.
Three decades ago, Nigerian Hakeem Olajuwon spent three years at the University of Houston before embarking on an illustrious NBA career with the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors.
Dikembe Mutombo left his Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1980s with the intention of studying medicine at Georgetown University, but ended up playing 18 season in the NBA and was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
These are a couple of examples of how the NCAA has changed the lives of many Africa-born athletes.
But I don't think Tacko Fall, Therence Mayimba and Cheick Diallo share the same opinion.
While they come from different parts of Africa - Fall from Senegal, Mayimba from Gabon and Diallo from Mali - the three have one thing in common: they are talented basketball players looking to combine academia with an athletic career in the U.S., but at some point in their still short careers the NCAA ruled them ineligible to play college basketball and questioning their academic history.
Obviously any potential student-athlete must comply with NCAA rules, but when the rules remain repeatedly misinterpreted by athletes and schools, then something is wrong.
If players see their basketball careers cut short because of inexplicable rulings, then the NCAA eligibility policy needs to become clearer.
Diallo's case seems to be the most complex of all. I'll talk about it later in this column, but first, let me explain why I feel the NCAA eligibility ruling has proven a hurdle for aspiring student-athletes coming from the continent of Africa.
Fall is an engineering major who graduated from Liberty Christian Prep high school with a 3.6 grade-point average, but the NCAA seems to have overlooked his academic history and was unwilling to sign off the coursework he took at the school without further review because the school is currently under evaluation by the NCAA, which means that they only accepted 7.5 of Fall's core classes.
As a result, the 2.24m centre was not cleared academically to compete this season for Central Florida because of a delay in the certification process.
However, after protests and threats to sue the NCAA, Fall was cleared and made his debut for Central Florida facing his fellow Senegalese Mamadou Ndiaye's UC Irvine.
Back in August, Mayimba - who sat out the 2014-15 season - was playing well for Gabon at AfroBasket 2015 and could not wait to join George Mason University.
When I talked to him, he thought his time to shine in the college ranks had finally arrived. He was so keen in joining George Mason University that he almost left his national team a day before before the end of the competition.
Once in the U.S., his eligibility case remained unclear and he risked having to sit out for a second season in a row before joining Northwest Florida State College.
For Diallo, who arrived in the U.S in 2012, things went from bad to worse.
The Malian committed to Kansas University (KU) and is rated as one of the top prospects in U.S. college basketball, but two games into the season and Diallo has yet to be ruled eligible to play as the NCAA continues to investigate his academic background and the curriculum at his high school, Our Savior New American.
For Kansas head coach Bill Self, Diallo should be playing immediately.
If the NCAA is right to rule players ineligible, then aspiring student-athletes urgently need better guidance.