Harries was killed by an obscure provision in the NCAA rule book which states that student-athletes who do not enroll in college within a year of graduating high school cannot compete in organized competition. If they're caught, they lose a year of eligibility.
There is a one-year grace period, though, allowing high school graduates to play summer league ball before matriculating into college. Which didn't apply to Harries. Because he was doing this:
10 days after graduation, he began his mission in Raleigh, N.C. For two years, seven days a week, he rose at 6:30 a.m., did 30 minutes of exercise, then studied the Bible, performed service projects and used his high school Spanish skills to lend assistance in the barrios. He was allowed to email family members once a week, but speak to them by phone only twice a year: Christmas and Mother’s Day. …
[A friend] contacted Harries in mid-July because some players on his team couldn’t make the team’s next game and his roster was down to four players. Harries, hoping to get back in playing shape, jumped at the chance for a full-court game. He played three games total — two on one night, one on another.
Just before he was set to arrive at Colgate, the NCAA mailed Harries a questionnaire. The organization asked Harries if had played any organized sports over the previous two years. Harries, without thinking of any possible trouble, said yes, and now he can't play the 2013-14 season. Not even an appeal—which played up Harries' unusual circumstances—could reverse the decision.
The NCAA has all the compassion and flexibility of the Soviet-era Kremlin.
UPDATE: According to the AJC, the NCAA reversed its decision today. Harries' scholarship will be restored. Better late than never.