Judge Clears High School Basketball Star to Play

(CN) – An Alabama judge ruled Friday that high school basketball star Maori Davenport can take the court tonight pending final judgment in her case against the Alabama High School Athletic Association, which stripped her eligibility because of a mistake admittedly made by USA Basketball.

The association, abbreviated as AHSAA, disqualified Davenport on Nov. 30 because she received an $857.20 “broken time” payment in August from USA Basketball after representing the U.S. in the 2018 FIBA American U18 Championship in Mexico City that month.

In this Feb. 26, 2014, file photo, Oneonta’s Abby Blackwood, left, shoots over Charles Henderson’s Maori Davenport in a girls’ Class 4A state basketball semifinal, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Hal Yeager)

Davenport, a senior at Charles Henderson High School in Pike County, Alabama, and No. 15 national prospect, is committed to play basketball at Rutgers University next season.

On Thursday, Davenport’s parents sued the AHSAA on behalf of their daughter, asking a circuit court to reinstate her eligibility.

Under NCAA rules, college players are allowed to receive such payments for wages they could have received during the time they were playing. USA Basketball assured Davenport and her family that she, too, was allowed to receive such a payment and that the organization would check with the state governing body for high school players to ensure that she could receive it.

However, according to the complaint, the administrative assistant who was supposed to check with the governing body never did, and USA Basketball did not realize the mistake until mid to late-November.

Tara Davenport, Maori’s mother, self-reported the check to the association the day after USA Basketball informed her that her daughter could not accept the stipend, and the money was reimbursed to USA Basketball on Nov. 28.

Despite the Davenports’ swift attempts to correct the mistake, and USA Basketball’s admission that it was responsible for the mistake, AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese ruled Nov. 30 that Davenport was ineligible to play for the rest of the 2018-2019 season.

The Davenports filed suit after unsuccessfully appealing to the association. On Friday, Pike County Circuit Judge Sonny Reagan granted the Davenports a temporary restraining order, enjoining the association and Savarese from disqualifying Davenport.

Davenport’s case has received national attention. On Jan. 3, the Women’s National Basketball Association tweeted its support for Davenport.

“The WNBA urges the Alabama High School Athletic Association to reinstate Maori Davenport. Let her play the rest of her senior season instead of being penalized for an honest mistake made by others,” the tweet stated.

Former professional basketball player Kobe Bryant and former professional tennis player Billie Jean King also tweeted their support for Davenport.

Bryant called the situation “just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in youth basketball,” while King called the situation “maddening” and “nonsensical.”

Davenport’s USA Basketball team coach Jeff Walz told espnW Thursday that there was “nothing mischievous that was trying to be done by Maori.”

“It’s sad because it’s a kid’s senior year,” he said. “And again, this is what happens a lot — it’s adults getting in the way of what should be a great experience for an 18-year-old to finish out her senior year.”

AHSAA spokesperson Ron Ingram said the association declined to comment on the pending litigation. It is represented by attorney Jim Williams of Melton Espy & Williams P.C.

The Davenports are represented by Alabama attorneys Carl Cole and Grady Reeves, who could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.  

Davenport’s team is scheduled to play Carroll High School on Friday evening.

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