In Alabama, a Girl’s High School Hoop Dreams Are Restored Express News
The story gained national attention recently after Jay Bilas, an ESPN college basketball analyst who was once called “the N.C.A.A.’s most dangerous critic,” wrote a column blistering Steve Savarese, the executive director for the state athletic association. Bilas accused Savarese of “blindly asserting authority without regard for whom it may hurt, or the reasonable likelihood of a similar issue recurring in the future.” On Thursday, the tennis legend Billie Jean King joined the N.B.A. star DeMarcus Cousins and a chorus of others in voicing their support for the player.
The association did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the judge’s ruling, and earlier in the week it declined to make Savarese available for an interview. On Tuesday, Johnny Hardin, the president of the association’s Central Board of Control — which heard and denied Davenport’s final appeal — released a statement asserting that “facts involved in the ruling have either been misstated or ignored.”
According to Brock Kelley, the Charles Henderson High School principal, it is the association’s facts that are misleading.
Hardin’s statement says that Tara Davenport is a certified basketball coach and therefore should know the eligibility rules. Kelley wrote in an email that Tara Davenport, who is a fifth-grade teacher, coaches middle school basketball, for which there is no rules test. Hardin’s statement says Kelley has not attended an association rules conference for the past three years. Kelley wrote that his school’s athletic director had attended each one and that the amateurism rule had not been covered at the last meeting.
Tara Davenport emphasized that neither she nor her daughter had hidden the check. They simply thought that U.S.A. Basketball had done its due diligence and that they could accept it.
“I reported it as soon as I knew that Maori wasn’t supposed to have it,” she said.
Kelley, the high school principal, and Miller, the U.S.A. Basketball spokesman, focused on how institutionalized the payments are. After U.S.A. Basketball sent the check but before Tara Davenport received it, Kelley wrote, she received a call from Jeff Walz. Walz is the women’s basketball coach at the University of Louisville and was also the coach of the United States under-18 team. Walz asked Tara Davenport if she had received the check yet. She said she had not and asked whether Maori could accept it. Walz told her that she was allowed to and that it was permitted by the N.C.A.A.
Louisville officials did not respond to a request to comment.
In Maori Davenport’s absence, the Charles Henderson girls basketball team has won all but two games and is the top-ranked 5A team in the state. Davenport is attending school, going to practices and working on her game with an outside trainer. She said she was focusing on ball-handling skills and other drills that would allow her to play more as a wing.
On Friday night, she will get her first opportunity to show off those newly developed skills in a competitive game.