By Jason Scott |
Maori Davenport, a 6-foot-4 player at Charles Henderson High School in Alabama and one of the top women’s basketball recruits in the country, has had her senior season thrown into disarray by what some have described as “a clerical error.”
According to ESPN.com, the case all stems from a check that Davenport was sent by USA Basketball for competing at FIBA Americas U18 Championship, where Davenport led the team in blocks and rebounds and helped the U.S. claim a gold medal.
USA Basketball routinely pays players small stipends to help them cover the costs of participation. The practice is sanctioned by the NCAA, but is subject to the rules of each individual state high school association. As such, USA Basketball will typically confer with high school associations prior to cutting checks, to make sure they don’t run afoul of state rules. But in this case, an error was made, and Davenport was sent a check for $857.20.
It was a mistake. In realizing the error, USA Basketball notified Davenport’s high school as well as the Alabama High School Athletic Association. Davenport returned the money. Still, the AHSAA ruled that she would be ineligible for one whole season.
Steve Savarese, the executive director of the AHSAA said the payment runs afoul of Rule 1, Section 8 of the AHSAA Handbook, constitution and bylaws. Essentially, the rule says that because of USA Basketball’s mistake, Davenport has forfeited her amateur status and is subject to a one-year suspension from competition. That suspension has been held up on appeal, according to ESPN.com.
Since the situation came to light, media and sports personalities have rallied to Davenport’s side in the case.
One such person, ESPN college basketball analyst and play-by-play announcer Jay Bilas, penned a piece for ESPNW after speaking with Savarese, expressing his displeasure with Savarese’s decision to remain firm in upholding the suspension.
“There is no other way to couch this,” Bilas writes. “Savarese and the AHSAA are wrong, and need to reinstate Davenport.”
“The ball is now in Steve Savarese’s court,” Bilas continues. “He told me that he was the sole authority on these issues. As executive director, he can rescind his eligibility ruling and reinstate Davenport. He should. It’s the right thing to do.”
Davenport is signed to play basketball at Rutgers next year.
**Editor’s note: The Alabama High School Athletic Association’s statement on the Maori Davenport suspension is published here.