NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Evina Westbrook’s appeal for immediate eligibility has been denied by the NCAA, UConn announced Wednesday. Westbrook, who traveled with the team for their game at Vanderbilt, will now have to sit out the entire 2019-20 season.

Westbrook, a 6-foot guard, transferred in May from Tennessee, where she averaged a team-high 14.9 points and 5.3 assists. She has two years of eligibility remaining.

“I would like to know why some people do get cleared or get waivers and others don’t,” coach Geno Auriemma said following a 64-51 victory over Vanderbilt. “I have no idea anymore. I really don’t. And you know what, who does it punish? Who does it punish? Does it punish Tennessee? That kid’s not going to be there anyway. The only person that it punishes when this happens is the kid who’s trying to get themselves in a better environment.”

Under NCAA rules, players are required to sit out a year after transferring, though exceptions are sometimes made in the case of circumstances out of their control. After the NCAA denied Westbrook’s original waiver on Nov. 1, Auriemma suggested that Westbrook had dealt with troubling issues at Tennessee.

Auriemma doubled down on that stand Wednesday.

“Think about this, a kid's in an environment that's not necessarily healthy, an environment that, if you knew what the environment was, which I can't say, you would not want your kid in that environment. And the athletic director (Phil Fulmer) there knows it, but he's not going to support her leaving, which would have helped us a little bit,” said Auriemma, who declined to get into specifics about what made it so egregious. “And now, her reward is she has to sit at home even when we travel and can't play. So she should’ve stuck it out, right?”

UConn athletic director Dave Benedict expressed his disbelief over the ruling in a statement.

“Knowing the facts of this case, I am at a loss for how the NCAA Committee for Legislative Relief decided not to grant a transfer waiver for Evina Westbrook,” Benedict wrote. “It is clear that the system we have in place failed and I hope to be a contributor to a reformed process in the near future. For now though, we will continue to support Evina and her family in every way that we can.”

Westbrook, the former No. 2 recruit in the country, was one of four players brought in this offseason, joining freshmen guards Anna Makurat and Aubrey Griffin and ex-Murray State forward Evelyn Adebayo, a graduate transfer. Westbrook underwent left knee surgery in June, forcing the team to limit her reps during the preseason. She was deemed healthy for the opener, though.

“Not having another guard like ‘E’, somebody who’s going to be out there and be aggressive and do some dirty work for your team, it’s tough,” point guard Crystal Dangerfield said.

Tennessee went 19-13 in 2019, failing to reach 20 wins for the first time in 43 years. Following a loss to UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Westbrook expressed doubt about coach Holly Warlick’s job status, telling reporters, “I don’t know, I really don’t know,” when asked if she expected Warlick to return. Four days later, Warlick was fired and ultimately replaced by former guard Kellie (Jolly) Harper.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour