Maori Davenport of Troy, Alabama is a heck of a high school basketball player.
Last season, as a junior, Maori averaged 18.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.2 blocks, and led her high school to the Class 5A state title. The year before, in a losing effort in the state title game, she had 20 points and 25 rebounds and swatted away 19 shots, an Alabama state record. She has committed to play at Rutgers.
Last November, however, Maori, a 6-foot-4 forward, was called into her principal’s office and told that the Alabama High School Athletic Association had ruled her ineligible for one year, her senior season.
Why? Well, the story begins last summer. Maori was part of the USA’ Women’s Under-18 team at the America’s Championship in Mexico City, where she led the team to the gold medal, leading the team in rebounding and blocked shots.
After the tournament, USA Basketball sent Maori, and every other girl on the team, a stipend of $857.20, effectively to compensate them for wages they could have earned working summer jobs rather than practicing and competing. What neither USA Basketball nor Maori knew was that such payments — while allowed at the collegiate level and by most states — are prohibited by the Alabama high school athletic governing body. In November, when she learned that the stipend wasn’t allowed, she returned the money to USA Basketball. That wasn’t good enough for the Alabama authorities, who suspended her for the season.
Two appeals boards upheld the ruling.
Finally, common sense (in the form of the judicial system) kicked in. A judge granted her parents’ petition for immediate injunctive relief, clearing the way for Maori to play until the matter comes before the court on a full-blown merits hearing. And since, by granting the motion, the judge has already concluded that Maori’s case has a “likelihood of success,” you can bet she can focus more on the basketball court than the circuit court.
But did it really have to go this far in the first place?