An Alabama star goes to court to get to the field


Maori Davenport had to go to court just to return to the field.

How ridiculous it is to get there for the star of Alabama basketball preparation.

Fortunately, a cruel and unfair decision by the state's governing body was suspended Friday by a local judge, just hours before Charles Henderson High School brought Carroll to justice.

It was only a temporary win, but at least that allowed Davenport to play for the first time since November. She scored 25 points in a 72-17 victory.

"I'm so happy to see her on the field," mother Tara Davenport told reporters after the match. & # 39; & # 39; Where she belongs & # 39; & # 39;

Where she belongs, indeed.

We can only hope that the judge will rejoin the Maori when he hears the facts, although it is not clear. Most importantly, this ridiculous case should serve as a lesson for all high school administrators:

The rules are necessary, of course, but those who apply them must always try to do their best for the children who play the games.

This mantra can not be found in this case.

& # 39; & # 39; I believe in rules. But I also believe in a fair and reasonable application of the rules, "said ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, who lobbied for Davenport. "High school teachers and coaches as well as high school administrators are supposed to be raising their kids, not keeping them on the ground."

Davenport's senior season – which should have been a triumph on the last lap with her teammates Charles Henderson before leaving to play Vivian Stringer at the Rutgers Basketball Hall of Fame – was turned upside down by a simple mistake of writing.

Last summer, Davenport played for his country at a youth tournament in Mexico City. As usual, USA Basketball sent a modest allocation check of $ 857.20 to all participants.

This was not a problem for players who were already going to college because the NCAA allows such payments. But USA Basketball did not check if this applied to high school players such as Davenport, who did not accept any money under the amateurish rules of the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

The Davenport family has deposited the check. Then, about three months later, after learning that the payment was against the rules of the law, they themselves reported the offense and refunded the money to USA Basketball.

"The United States has acknowledged their mistake," said Tara Davenport, who is also a coach at Charles Henderson Middle School. & # 39; & # 39; His father and I returned the money as soon as possible. & # 39; & # 39;

Case closed, no?


The AHSAA said that any violation of the amateurism rule resulted in an automatic suspension of one year, thus ending the career of Maori High School. Charles Henderson, the reigning 5A champion, was also sentenced to lose his first four games, which Davenport played before surrendering.

Davenport appealed the decision, but two ad hoc groups of the AHSAA repealed its decision. Even more appalling, the association released a statement this week that coldly defended its decision, essentially blaming the entire Davenport family, the coaches and administrators of Charles Henderson.

For Bilas, it was the drop of water.

"This statement was full of lies and petty," he said Friday. & # 39; & # 39; This does not speak well to anyone in the state of Alabama, especially those in the high school sports association. It was a low-frontal thing.

The AHSAA statement stated that Davenport had adults around her who should have known the rules. He clarified that the August 15th payment had not been reported for 91 days and only after the start of Charles Henderson's season, as if it implied that the Davenport family had only messed up when she was nailed.

"If exceptions are made, it will no longer be necessary to resort to an amateur rule," said the statement released by Johnny Hardin, chairman of the AHSAA's central control board. "The rules are applied in the same way to ALL athletes."

But Bilas pointed out that it was an extremely rare case. It did not even require a decision once the money had been repaid.

"There is no way that, when the rule was put in place, it was even considered," he said. & # 39; & # 39; I do not know how many young people from Alabama are playing for their country, but I guess they are not very numerous. Certainly, not many who still qualify for high school eligibility. "

Good thing, he added, the AHSAA law was not present when the US Airways jet was forced to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River. "I suppose they would have quoted Sully Sullenberger for sailing without a license."

The story continues

The Davenport decision turned Alabama into a national shame, attracting universal condemnation from all corners of the sporting world.

<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Warriors of the state of the gold The star DeMarcus Cousins, a native of this state, asked that Davenport be allowed to play. Kobe Bryant He called it "almost the most ridiculous thing I've heard in basketball for young people". Great tennis player Billie Jean King called the situation "maddening". "data-reactid =" 53 "> DeMarcus, star of the Golden State Warriors The cousins, from this state, asked that Davenport be allowed to play.Kobe Bryant called it" almost the most ridiculous that I've heard in youth basketball. "The great tennis player Billie Jean King described the overall situation as" maddening. "

"Forcing Maori Davenport to miss her last year of basketball in high school because of an error she was not responsible for is absurd," King wrote on Twitter.

The Alabama legislature, usually a bastion of law and order, even passed a resolution asking the high school association to reconsider its decision.

Davenport always seems a bit overwhelmed by the whole affair. And no matter what the judge finally decides, his senior year has always been tarnished.

It's something that she will never come back to.

"I do not think I have done anything wrong," Davenport told The Associated Press during a visit to the Legislature this week. & # 39; & # 39; I was confused and I was shocked. & # 39; & # 39;

She hopes no one else has to endure this kind of injustice.

"I just want them to help that it did not happen to another student-athlete in Alabama," Davenport said. & # 39; & # 39; Just be clear on the rules. Always communicate with each high school. In this way, it has no chance of recurring. & # 39; & # 39;

It sounds like a reasonable request.

Much more reasonable than we heard from adults in the room.

Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at the following address: pnewberry (at) or at You will find his work at