Girls’ High School Basketball: The Maori Davenport Saga

PC: Steve Johnson

Chelsea McBay
Sports Editor

On Nov 30, the drama started to unfold. Girls’ basketball player and high school senior Maori Davenport got called into the principal’s office during the school day at Charles Henderson High School. Two faces awaited her in that small office—her principal, Brock Kelly, and the head coach of the girl’s basketball program, Dyneshia Jones.

Davenport had just started her senior season, only having played four games. She is known around the country as one of the best athletes in her class, and is nationally ranked on recruiting boards. In fact, prior to the start of the season, she had already committed to Rutgers University to continue her basketball career.

Along with securing a scholarship to one of the most prestigious universities in the country, Davenport also had the privilege of being a part of the USA Basketball’s U18 team earlier that year. Because of the showcasing of her abilities on the U18 team, she was also a player on the All-Tournament team in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship. Thanks in part to her stellar play, they were able to capture the title for the United States.

Davenport was at the peak of her basketball career at this point, and there was nowhere to go but up. However, she then ran into quite a large speed bump. The Alabama High School Athletic Association had a problem with her. They suddenly deemed her ineligible to play in her senior season. What? She was as confused as anyone else.

She soon found out their reasoning: Davenport had received too large of a stipend from USA Basketball. The exact amount was $857.20, which is quite a large sum for a high school student. Typically, the largest amount high school players in Alabama can receive from the organization is $250.00. USA Basketball admitted their mistakes in calculating stipends and, in fact, had sent Davenport too much money.

Davenport realized the mistake and immediately sent all of the money back to USA Basketball after she had unknowingly deposited it, but that was not enough for the AHSAA. They suspended her anyway, even though Maori was not at fault.

Her principal and coach promised her that they would appeal the suspension. Davenport was still crushed by the current suspension, and was unsure of what to do next.

A few weeks passed. Still nothing good had come about, as Davenport lost two appeals regarding her case. She was losing hope. Her town of Troy, Alabama rallied around her, and had even started a massive petition for her to be reinstated on the basketball team, which garnered an astounding 10,000 signatures. But it did not matter. The AHSAA did not budge.

Soon after, she started gaining support on Twitter from all over the country. Some big-name supporters included Kobe Bryant and the WNBA.

It took longer than it should have, but 43 days later, Maori was back in the principal’s office, and this time, they had the correct verdict for her. She could play again, effective immediately.

Her parents had filed a lawsuit against the AHSAA the previous day, and the case had found its way to circuit court judge Sonny Reagan, who put an emergency motion in place in order to allow Davenport to play again. It was not the end of the case by a long shot, but it was a temporary victory for the time being.

She made her appearance in court once more on January 11, 2019. She was overwhelmingly supported by her town and school. Most people wore supportive shirts that had Maori’s jersey number, 23, on them. Let’s just say that Davenport had a game that night, dropping a monster 25 points. Indeed, she showed up and proved to the world that she is legitimate.

In a recent decision by an Alabama judge, Davenport’s case has been pushed off until February 1. However, Davenport is still under the temporary eligibility to play, as her motion got extended until the case will get seen by the court. Her last high school basketball game is scheduled for Feb 1, so the drama of this case will continue afterwards. We will have to wait and see what happens until then.

Categories: Sports

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