Ohio State vs. Nebraska, 1/18

Nebraska's Isaac Copeland (center), a transfer from Georgetown, is eligible for the fall semester after the NCAA granted a medical hardship waiver on Tuesday.

FRANCIS GARDLER, JOURNAL STAR FILE PHOTO

The Isaac Copeland eligibility saga has reached its end.

And, boy, is it a happy ending for Nebraska.

The 6-foot-9, 220-pound former five-star recruit was granted a medical hardship waiver by the NCAA, NU announced Tuesday, making the forward eligible to play immediately this season.

"It's a great feeling. It's a long process, coming here in the middle of January, not really knowing too many people, and then getting surgery and now getting back playing," Copeland said Monday at the Hendricks Training Complex. "And now, finally being able to realize I'll be able to play at the start of the season. It feels great."

Husker head coach Tim Miles — "he's real goofy," Copeland said — let the team know through a group chat, which included the use of a bitmoji to convey his excitement.

"I'm ecstatic for Isaac, first of all," Miles said. "I think it's a great opportunity for him. He's been through a lot healthwise and for him to get that full year back is great. And it's certainly great for our program, too."

In a process that seemed from the outside to drag on from nearly the moment he arrived in Lincoln, Copeland and the Huskers had to wait until about 2½ weeks before practice starts before receiving word that he could begin playing immediately starting with the season-opening exhibition Nov. 7 against Northwood and the regular-season opener Nov. 11 against Eastern Illinois.

In actuality, Miles said, the NCAA acted relatively quickly: within about 10 days to two weeks after receiving the appeal from Copeland and NU.

"A lot of hard work went into this, with his family, and with our people," Miles said. "I knew where we were at each point. But there were just a lot of things that were involved in it — on our end, writing the appeal, on Isaac and his family's end writing the appeal, that were just time-consuming."

Had he not received the waiver, Copeland would have missed Nebraska’s first 11 games — including NU’s first two Big Ten games at Michigan State and at home against Minnesota, and a road game at Creighton, as well as the Advocare Invitational in Florida.

When he originally transferred, Copeland was eligible to begin playing in games starting in the second semester of this school year, meaning his first game would have come against Kansas.

Copeland said that while he was confident the NCAA would rule in his favor, he expected the decision to come down as late as one day before Nebraska's first game.

"That's how I went into approaching the situation," he said. "So once I found out today, and we haven't even started official practice yet, it's a big relief and I'm happy."

Copeland petitioned the NCAA for a medical hardship waiver that would give him an extra semester of eligibility because of a herniated disc in his back he suffered before his junior season at Georgetown started. Copeland played in only seven games for the Hoyas before shutting it down and announcing his intention to transfer after the fall 2016 semester.

He had surgery Feb. 23 in Lincoln, with a recovery time of about six weeks. He was given the green light for full participation about two weeks before the end of summer, and Miles said Tuesday that Copeland is 90 percent healthy right now and "looks great."

Copeland can now suit up for Nebraska for two full seasons.

Copeland is believed to be the first five-star recruit to sign with the Huskers, and was rated the No. 16 player in the nation by ESPN and No. 23 by Rivals.com coming out of high school in 2014.

The Raleigh, North Carolina, native was named to the Big East all-freshman team in 2014-15 after averaging 6.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.

He posted his best numbers as a sophomore, averaging 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists while starting all 33 of Georgetown’s games and playing 32 minutes a contest.

"All of his accolades are well-deserved, whether it be in high school or at Georgetown. He's an aggressive player, he's a strong player, he can score it, he rebounds well, he shares the ball really well, he's got a great sense for the game," Miles said. "I just think, as I see him play, he plays well off others and others play well off him."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.

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A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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