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Let the Kid Play

I genuinely believe there are two sides to every story. Rumors and speculations are everywhere, and I usually refrain from commenting online. There are several buzzes within our local community. I have no comment with regards to Myrtle. What a mess. But I would like to chime in on a situation that I am close to.

Hanief Clay is only 15 years old, and this talented young man has already been through more than most. He has a full head of hair and a terrific smile. Hanief’s father got into some trouble, and his mother tragically lost her battle. He now lives with his Gram on the east end of town. Their house is within walking distance of St. John.

Hanief transferred to SJNRA over the summer. It was totally his family’s choice, and he is doing quite well. Our small little school is a good fit for him both academically and socially. EVERYBODY loves Hanief. Trust me. He is a tremendous kid, very polite, and rather well-spoken. I am extremely proud of him and his resolve. He is a rock, and there is absolutely nothing that can phase him.

Hanief is a key member of Golden Knight’s hoops team. He is our squad’s leader both on and off the court. I have never coached anyone with his motor or drive. Hanief is a total team player and he is constantly looking for ways to get better. He is a super quick guard with incredible vision. This crafty young lefty can certainly play. But he can only practice. Hanief isn’t allowed to participate in any of our games. Confused? Let me explain.

Hanief Clay was declared ineligible by the PIAA District 4 Committee on November 14th. His previous school decided to protest his transfer and questioned his motives. They also accused local NBA Superstar Alize Johnson of insider trading. Hanief was there in person when six total strangers voted unanimously. They told this 15-year-old kid that he wasn’t allowed to play for the entire 2019-20 season.

It was rather disturbing. I bit my tongue and stayed silent as Hanief could appeal with the overall PIAA Board of Directors. We were very hopeful. The meeting took place this past Wednesday in Harrisburg. Another panel denied Hanief Clay the opportunity to play basketball by a 4-3 vote. I have yet to see the latest ruling in writing, but I did get a copy from District 4 explaining their reasoning. I will not attempt to paraphrase. Here is page 2 word for word. I have a screenshot. Please disregard all of the mishaps and poor grammar. You would think that someone would actually proofread.

“During June 2019, Hanief attended an extended trip with a family friend, NBA player, and former St. John Neumann basketball standout Alize Johnson, along with Alize’s two brothers who are players on the St. John Neumann Regional Academy team.

“Based on the information provided and the circumstances involved, the Hearing Panel concluded that it did not benefit him educationally, economically, socially or emotionally for Hanief to transfer to St. John Neumann Regional Academy other than to play for a less successful, smaller enrollment classification, and/or lower profile team in order to be ranked higher among the students on the team. It was also determined that Hanief sought out Athletic Personnel and/or student/athletes at the school to which he transferred and/or individuals affiliated with the school to which he transferred engaged in recruiting the student for the purposes of participating in athletics.

“On the basis of the foregoing, the District 4 Hearing Panel, by a unanimous (6-0) vote, determined that Hanief’s basketball eligibility is denied for one year from the date of his enrollment at St. John Neumann Regional Academy. This decision is made for the reason that Hanief’s transfer was materially motivated by an athletic purpose with regard to basketball and within the meaning of ARTICLE VI of the PIAA By-Laws. Hanief is permitted to practice with the St. John Neumann Regional basketball, and is otherwise eligible to participate in all other sports.”
This document was signed by James Zack, who is the PIAA District IV Chairman. My head hurts. Try using a few commas, Jim. OK. Here it goes. Hanief and his grandmother made the decision to transfer. Period. Alize Johnson is not an agent for SJNRA. For any adult to accuse him of such is just disingenuous. Alize has done so much for the entire community. He built four new basketball courts and provides many turkeys. Alize also provides shoes to several area hoops teams. Well. Minus one. You penalize a 15-year-old kid for going on a trip with a long-time family friend? Especially after he was already enrolled. Insane. Hanief is allowed to play any other sport at SJNRA. He just can’t participate in any of our basketball games.

I am very disappointed with some of my so-called friends. Here they constantly insist that they are all about the kids. Maybe we will someday get their side of the story. Perhaps they will release a very vague statement two years from now. Hanief will be just fine. He is a warrior and will continue to shine. This youngster continues to battle. He views this as a blessing. The PIAA is a disaster. There is so much ambiguity and corruption. Mr. Zack and the boys have total control. I find it funny that they haven’t released any financial information for the past three years. Seriously. Where does all the money go? I am still upset over the recent verdict. This entire situation smells. Eligibility? Agents? Come on man. I personally know four other kids in our area. They are currently playing basketball for public schools and they do not live in their districts. I won’t mention any names, because I am totally fine with it. Enjoy your season. Let the kid play. Cheers.

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