This past summer, the then 17-year old Maori Davenport helped lead the United States to a gold medal in the FIBA U18 America's Championships. Entering her senior season of prep basketball, the Rutgers signee had big expectations for her last go around with Charles Henderson High School.
Fast forward six months, and Davenport's high school career has been cut short due to a ruling by the Alabama High School Athletic Association who deemed her ineligible for her senior season. The reason comes down to an accidental check that was sent to her by USA Basketball for over $850 that was then cashed. The money was for expenses due to her time spent representing Team USA, but is not allowed.
Once the AHSAA got wind of it, they deemed Davenport indelible for her senior season despite her and her family repaying the money in full. They have appealed it twice and it was denied both times. This is an unfortunate situation for a minor who's future was in the hands of adults.
I could have told you what I would have done had I got a check in the mail when I was 17 years old. Gone directly to my hometown bank, deposited it, picked up my friends and gone to the mall. I can also tell you my level of intelligence at 17 years old in terms of what compliance meant and what factors went into being eligible and ineligible. In fact, as a young athlete, you don't begin to learn those lessons until you reach college.
Here is my question for the AHSAA: Do you have educational seminars in place to help student athletes understand rules and what deems them eligible and ineligible when they represent their country?
The ruling and AHSAA's refusal to shift their ruling has sparked serious outrage from the basketball community across the board arguing to let the No. 15 prospect in the country finish out her senior year.
The WNBA's head of league operations, Bethany Donaphin recently said in a statement, "No young woman should have her future jeopardized because of an unintentional administrative mistake. When we heard Maori's story, we wanted the AHSAA to know that we disagree with its decision and to let Maori know we support her right to play."
Jay Bilas caught wind on the matter and has slammed the AHSAA.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association should be embarrassed and, frankly, ashamed of itself over this ruling. The AHSAA acts as if the players exist for the AHSAA, and not the other way around. Just awful. Maori Davenport did NOTHING WRONG. @AHSAA_hoops https://t.co/OCKBY1S1Iv
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) January 4, 2019
Dallas Wings head coach, Brian Agler, has been especially vocal on the matter.
It’s 1/5/19 and the basketball season is slowly ticking away. Pls, tell me, ALabama HSAA that you have reinstated Maori Davenport’s elgibilty. In these situations one person in that organization can do the rt thing
— brian agler (@brian_agler) January 5, 2019
Hall of Famer Katie Smith joined in on the movement.
— Katie Smith (@katiesmith30) January 5, 2019
Davenport's future coach, Vivian C. Stringer, has every right to defend her star recruit.
"Maori hadn't done a doggone thing except receive a check from USA Basketball," Vivian Stringer told NJ Advance Media. "Who steps up? Who protects her? It was grown-ups fault. And grown ups did not lay claim to that. Maori sent the money back the next day. She's a great kid, great student. She tried to do the right thing and then the Alabama association.. are you kidding me? This girl was up for player of the year, All-American. How can you do that?"
The situation was talked about during various NBA games on ESPN by Jeff Van Gundy. Current players from all over have also shown their support from Sue Bird to Natalie Achonwa and Chris Paul
ESPN's Mechelle Voepel had some choice and sobering words for all adults involved.
Maori Davenport situation a prime example of how it takes maturity and character to admit a mistake and fix it, rather than to pridefully cling to being wrong. AHSAA, surely you don't lack fundamental good character, do you? This isn't how you want to be seen by nation, is it?
— Mechelle Voepel (@MechelleV) January 5, 2019
It's time for the AHSAA to step up and do the right thing. Get over your egos and do what is best for one of your own. USA Basketball has taken responsibility for their mistake and stepped up… what about you?
In the words of Spalding…..
Let her play https://t.co/VBSwLk86YH
— Spalding (@Spalding) January 4, 2019