KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Baylor freshman Perry Jones was declared ineligible by the NCAA on Wednesday after an investigation about whether Jones or his family received preferential treatment or improper benefits from an AAU coach before enrolling in college.

The NCAA’s decision came only hours before the Bears played Oklahoma in their first game at the Big 12 Conference tournament, leaving them without a starter and one of the nation’s top freshmen. The 6-foot-11 Jones averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds for Baylor.

Baylor immediately appealed to have Jones’ eligibility reinstated.

“We are profoundly disappointed in the timing and determination in this matter,” Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw said in a release from the school. “This outcome appears to be inconsistent with other recent, widely discussed NCAA decisions.”

The school’s release said Jones had no knowledge of three, 15-day loans between his mother and AAU coach that were provided while Jones was in high school. The loans were repaid in a timely manner, according to interviews conducted by Baylor officials and the NCAA staff.

Jones’ AAU coach also paid for the player’s travel to a professional preseason football game in San Diego before getting to Baylor, the release said.

Jones, from Duncanville, Texas, was the Bears’ highest-rated recruit ever. He could also become their first one-and-done player since he is projected to be one of the top picks in the NBA draft this summer.

McCaw indicated that no Baylor representatives were involved or aware of any preferential treatment between the AAU coach and Jones’ family, whose relationship dates to at least the sixth grade. The AD commended Jones “for being cooperative and forthcoming during this unfortunate process.”

Baylor’s release said the issues that led to Jones’ ineligibility are not considered to be an institutional violation of NCAA rules.

That is an important distinction for Baylor, which just last summer completed a five-year NCAA probation period with penalties because of wrongdoing under previous coach Dave Bliss. The program was ravaged in the summer of 2003 by the killing of a player by a teammate, and the aftermath caught Bliss in a tangle of lies and financial misdeeds.

Quincy Acy, primarily the Bears’ sixth man, started in Jones’ place against Oklahoma. Jones sat on the Baylor bench in a Baylor warmup suit.

The NCAA ruling against Jones came less than a week after a McLennan County grand jury in Waco, Texas, where Baylor is located, declined to indict Bears senior guard LaceDarius Dunn on a felony assault charge. That effectively ended the case that began last fall with his arrest for allegedly breaking his girlfriend’s jaw.

Dunn, the Big 12’s leading scorer at 19.8 points per game and the league’s career scoring leader, missed Baylor’s first three regular season games after being suspended by the school after he turned himself into authorities and was arrested in October.