NIAA, it’s not an open-and-shut Case: Let him play |

NIAA, it’s not an open-and-shut Case: Let him play

Steve Yingling

Let him play!

Five months from now Jon Case will leave George Whittell with his high school diploma in hand. With it, he’ll take a multitude of high school memories with him as he embarks on the rest of his life.

But those memories are being tarnished because the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association won’t allow Case to play basketball for the Warriors this winter.

Four years ago, the Case family decided to send their twin sons, Jon and Alan, to South Tahoe High, even though they resided in Whittell school boundaries. As a result, the NIAA required the twins to sit out a season, and they became eligible for the Vikings as sophomores.

While Alan has become a star for the Vikings, Jon has played sparingly the past two seasons. Jon transferred to Whittell in November to graduate with his childhood friends. Basketball wasn’t the driving force behind the transfer.

So Jon has been attending the school for two months now. He’s permitted to learn there, why shouldn’t he be allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities like all of the other students?

After all, Jon is living with both parents in the Douglas County School District, and he didn’t return to Whittell for the sole purpose of playing basketball.

The NIAA rule regarding transfers stipulates that a student-athlete is ineligible for 180 schools after a transfer unless his/her parents are bona fide residents or his/her parent having legal custody, or his/her legal guardian is a bona fide resident of the district to which the pupil has transferred.

Considering the transfer rule by itself, Case should be eligible. But it’s not that simple, according to NIAA Director Jerry Hughes.

Hughes claims Case has established his eligibility in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District and can’t transfer back and forth without a penalty.

Furthermore, Hughes claims he warned the family when administrators from Whittell and South Tahoe met four years ago to discuss the transfer that if the twins ever enrolled at Whittell, they’d be required to sit out another 180 days.

“Sometimes you have to live with the decisions you make, and they should have been aware of all the consequences before they made a decision,” Hughes said.

Such hard-line tactics might be appropriate for the NCAA, but the NIAA should remember it’s dealing with a high school student here. Case has already been penalized one high school season – that’s more than enough.

The Case family has maintained a longtime residence in the Whittell district, but Jon is being treated worse than someone who doesn’t live with their immediate family to execute an athletic transfer.

Some will say that Case is getting what he deserves for transferring in the first place. That he should have stayed and helped transform Whittell into a basketball power. Instead, he tried to further his basketball skills at South Tahoe in hopes of becoming a major college basketball player. There’s nothing wrong with trying to fulfill a dream.

Now, Jon realizes that there’s more to life than basketball. Consequently, he hasn’t been hanging around Whittell practices, nagging coach Steve Maltase to find a way for him to play.

Jon or his parents have yet to phone Maltase to inquire about a position on the team. No, the teammates that Jon left behind four years ago, are the very ones who want him back, even if if it means less playing time for them.

“I’m just hoping for the best. He’s my good buddy. I want to play with him more than anything,” said Whittell senior Matt Raab. “He would be a great asset to our team. We’d be rolling.”

Whittell junior guard Dusty Apocotos is upset by the NIAA’s ruling.

“I don’t see what the problem is. I mean, it’s not like it’s some big issue. It’s not like this is the NBA or anything. It’s high school basketball and you should let the kids play. That’s what it is all about,” Apocotos said. “He’s in high school and should be able to play basketball. He shouldn’t be punished.”

Of course, with Case, the 2-10 Warriors would become Division II and state title contenders.

“If we had him and James Putnam down low, and Joe (Rodriguez), Matt and I on the wings, we’d be up there contending for first place,” Apocotos said.

His classmates don’t hold Case accountable for leaving them four years ago. It’s time the “adults” let go and permit Jon Case to take his rightful place in a Whittell uniform.

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