Big Z is free! Kentucky basketball celebrates ahead of 7-footer’s debut

The NCAA took their time, but Zvonimir Ivisic is finally free!

Kentucky Wildcats forward Zvonimir Ivisic (left)
Kentucky Wildcats forward Zvonimir Ivisic (left) / Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Whether or not the billboards worked, Kentucky basketball fans can go into Saturday night's game against Georgia knowing one thing: Big Z is free.

Zvonimir Ivisic was cleared to play by the NCAA on Saturday, ending a saga that had the Wildcats pulling out their hair for 16 games.

"Hey BBN. Guess what? I'm free," the seven-footer said in a video posted to social media. "See y'all tonight at the game. And thank you all for the support. Go BBN."

Mitch Barnhart confirmed the news on Twitter while Ivisic's teammates posted their own reactions across social media.

Kentucky basketball fans were pumped to hear the news, that's for sure.

What was the hold up anyways?

Why couldn't Zvonimir Ivisic play for Kentucky before now?

Ivisic is from Croatia and committed to the Wildcats in August. However, he had complications with the admissions process to join Kentucky and didn't get to campus until October. Then the NCAA complications started because he played for a semi-professional team in Europe, per Kyle Tucker of The Athletic. The NCAA wanted proof that he maintained his amateur status "by not receiving compensation beyond necessary expenses."

Why it took so long to clear that up is anyone's guess. This is the NCAA we're talking about. They're not exactly the quickest bunch.

What's important now is that Big Z is available to play on Saturday against Georgia and for the rest of the season.

The 7-foot-2 center is expected to play this season instead of redshirting. He averaged 11.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in the FIBA U20 European Championships over the summer. It will be interesting to see how his game translates to the college level.

The Wildcats rank No. 8 going into the game against the Bulldogs after dropping last weekend's overtime matchup with Texas A&M. It's tough to say what kind of an impact Ivisic will have stepping in during the middle of the season but it'll be better to find out than wonder any longer.

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