Alabama judge rules Maori Davenport eligible to play high school basketball after emergency motion and hearing
Maori Davenport deserves to play her senior season. ESPN’s Jay Bilas is fighting for her cause. UPDATE (January 11, 2019): Maori Davenport will be able to participate Friday night for Charles Henderson High School’s game against Carroll High School thanks to an emergency motion from Pike County (Ala.) County Circuit Judge Sonny Reagan. An alleged violation of the amateurism rule made Davenport ineligible for the first 11 games of the season. Original story below: An Alabama high school basketball player has been ruled ineligible for her senior season because a paycheck was mistakenly sent to her by USA Basketball after competing for the program this past summer. Now ESPN analyst Jay Bilas is using his platform to help change the state athletic association’s ruling. Maori Davenport is 6’4 forward who is ranked as the No. 15 player in the country by ESPN. She will play her college ball at Rutgers next season. Davenport is a senior at Charles Henderson High School, but won’t be allowed to play her final season of high school basketball because of a heartless ruling by the head of the Alabama High School Athletic Association. Why is Maori Davenport ineligible to play high school basketball? Davenport was a member of USA Basketball’s gold medal-winning team at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. USA Basketball regularly sends a stipend to players who compete for its teams. This is not against NCAA rules for players who are already in college. It can be against the rules of state athletic associations for high school players. USA Basketball is supposed to check with each of them before sending out the payment. USA Basketball didn’t double check with the AHSAA before sending Davenport a check for $857. Though Davenport has repaid the full amount of the check, the athletic association has maintained that she is ineligible. The ruling was made by Steve Savarese, the executive director of the AHSAA. He has the power to overturn the decision, but has refused to do it. In a statement this week, the AHSAA said it won’t make an exception for Davenport because it could open up avenues to “exploit student-athletes” in the future. All of this is garbage. Fortunately, ESPN’s Jay Bilas has continued to shine a spotlight on the issue to put public pressure on Savarese and the AHSAA. Bilas keeps going in on the AHSAA Anyone who has watched a college basketball game announced by Bilas on ESPN over the last week has heard the veteran commentator talk about the Davenport situation on television. Bilas has no vested interest in this other than he views the ruling that made Davenport ineligible as an injustice. Bilas published on article on ESPN laying out his case for Davenport’s eligibility after a conversation with Savarese. Bilas writes: After speaking to the AHSAA, I found Savarese’s ruling to be more than just wrong. I found it to be cruel, heartless and more about the interests of the AHSAA than the interests of a young athlete in its charge. It wasn’t about Maori Davenport. It was about Steve Savarese blindly asserting authority without regard for whom it may hurt, or the reasonable likelihood of a similar issue recurring in the future. Bilas notes the president of USA Basketball, Jim Tooley, traveled to Alabama for Davenport’s appeal hearing. He writes that there have been exceptions made for other student-athletes in the past by the AHSAA, but Savarese has refused to do so for Davenport to this point. The ball is in Savarese’s court. Maori Davenport did nothing wrong. She should be eligible. All Davenport wants to do is play her final season of high school basketball. It was not her fault she received a payment — it was a clerical error on the part of USA Basketball. She paid back the money. If there was any empathy involved in this case at all, Davenport would already be with her teammates on the hardwood. Instead, Savarese has made himself the story. This is about an old white man valuing his own authority over the well-being of the very students he’s supposed to protect. As Bilas tweeted, everything about Savarese’s ruling is unreasonable. The issue is one of reasonableness. Is it reasonable to suggest fair and proportionate treatment of Maori would subject athletes to exploitation? No. Is it reasonable suggest this is a recurring issue? Is it reasonable to punish an innocent girl for a clerical error? No.— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) January 7, 2019 Davenport deserves to be eligible. If it happens, she’ll have Jay Bilas to thank.