H.S. girl benched for USA Basketball check

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — One of the nation’s top girls high school basketball players appears likely to remain benched for her entire senior season after spending part of last summer playing with USA Basketball.

Maori Davenport, who received an $857.20 check from USA Basketball that was later repaid, has been trying to get into games this season in Troy, Alabama after being suspended by state high school officials.

Davenport, a Charles Henderson High School senior and Rutgers signee, was ruled ineligible on Nov. 30 after receiving the money for “lost wages.” She was a member of the U.S. team that won the gold medal in a tournament in Mexico City.

“Maori has not done a doggone thing, except receive a check from doggone USA Basketball,” Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer said recently. “It was grown-ups at fault. And grown-ups did not lay claim to that.”

Alabama high school officials agree adults are a fault, but are standing by their decision, saying the rules are the rules.

Two appeals on Davenport’s behalf have been denied and Monday state officials defended the suspension.

Johnny Hardin, president of the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Central Board of Control, issued a statement saying Davenport had adults around her who should have known the rules. He pointed out that the Aug. 15 payment wasn’t reported for 91 days and that Davenport played in “several games” during that time, violating the state’s amateurism rule.

He also noted that Davenport’s mother, Tara, is an assistant coach for Charles Henderson who has AHSAA certification. USA Basketball informed the AHSAA about the payment in November, said Craig Miller, spokesman for the basketball organization.

“The stories and comments being circulated throughout the media and social networks are asking that an exception be made to the amateur rule because it was not the student’s fault, the fact the money was repaid, and that the student is an exceptional athlete and will miss her senior year,” Hardin said. “However, if exceptions are made, there would no longer be a need for an amateur rule.

“The rules are applied equally to ALL athletes,” the release stated. “Furthermore, most eligibility violations are the result of adults failing to follow the rules.”

Hardin said other adults should also have known the rules, including Charles Henderson’s principal Brock Kelley and head coach Dyneshia Jones, adding that Jones is a former Central Board member.

Nonetheless, people have come to Davenport’s defense and criticized the decision.

Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, an Alabama native, urged the AHSAA on Twitter to “Fix this now!”