Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Sudanese High School Hoops Players Win Off-Court Victory
last week allowed them to play until a final determination could be made by the 10-member IHSA board.
In a decision overruling the executive director of the Illinois High School Association, the organization's board of directors Monday voted unanimously to grant season-long eligibility to three Sudanese basketball players. Hailing from Mooseheart Child City & School near Batavia, the players were previously declared ineligible by the IHSA after coming to the school from their war-torn country and being "unduly influenced" by school officials. A Kane County judge |
After allowing the players to address board members and then participating in four hours of deliberation, the board determined that Manguisto Deng, Makur Puou, Hakim Nyang and cross country runner Wal Khat were taken advantage of by African Hoop Opportunities Providing an Education, or A-HOPE – the group that arranged for the Sudanese players to attend Mooseheart.
"The Board hereby overturns the decision of the Executive Director [and] notes the students have previously served a 365 day period of ineligibility," read a statement issued Monday night by the IHSA. "The Board has further determined that henceforth any school accepting referrals of students from A-Hope Foundation or any other organization having as its purpose the placement of student-athletes in educational settings, shall be presumptively ineligible."
To back up that statement, the IHSA placed Mooseheart on probation and declared the school ineligible to participate in the IHSA's 2013 state basketball tournament. The board also mandated a training and education program for all Mooseheart coaches and administrators to assure compliance with IHSA bylaws, and required the school to submit a compliance plan. If those steps are taken prior to tournament time, the Chicago Tribune reports that Mooseheart would be cleared to participate.
Additionally, the school must sever ties with A-HOPE – an organization IHSA board president Dan Klett called out in his remarks to the media: "We don't feel that they meet some of the things we would like to see as far as helping all students, regardless of whether they're basketball players or volleyball players or just kids that want to come over and ... get an education."
He did, however, praise the Sudanese players: "They did a very nice job ... presenting to us, speaking to us and explaining their particular situations. And I think that had a big effect on the board. ... Honestly, I don't think they knew what they were getting themselves into. They were just looking for a better life for themselves."
Klett told reporter Ted Gregory that the fact the four students had already served a year of ineligibility factored into the decision to overrule IHSA executive director Marty Hickman's original decision and allow them to play. He also did not fault school rivals for bringing the students to the IHSA's attention. "I feel sorry that the students had to go through this process, but I think other schools have a right to question it," he said. "I think any reasonable person would have questioned the situation, considering that A-HOPE deals strictly with basketball. ... They're tall young men and people look at those things."