(MCT) — One of this season's more compelling high school basketball dramas is expected to reach a critical turning point Monday, when the Illinois High School Association determines if three towering Sudanese athletes can stay on the court.
The state athletic governing body's executive director on Nov. 29 deemed Mangisto Deng, Akim Nyang and Makur Puou — all 6 feet, 7 inches and taller — ineligible to play for Mooseheart High School.
Mooseheart engaged in recruiting the three basketball players and a fourth Sudanese teen who is a talented cross-country runner for athletic purposes, Executive Director Marty Hickman said. IHSA bylaws prohibit athletic recruitment.
Mooseheart, a 99-year-old residential and educational institution for children from unstable environments, disputes Hickman's decision and won a temporary reprieve Tuesday in Kane County Court.
Judge David Akemann granted Mooseheart's request to allow the boys to play until the IHSA board of directors reviews the case.
Attorneys for the "child city" contend it told the organization placing the boys that Mooseheart would accept Sudanese children regardless of their athletic prowess.
The attorneys also noted that Mooseheart had no contact with the boys until they arrived on its bucolic, 1,000-acre campus in Batavia in May 2011, then waited a full year — at the IHSA's direction — before allowing the teens to compete.
But IHSA attorney David J. Bressler noted that the placement organization specifies that it works with athletes exclusively and that Mooseheart basketball coach Ron Ahrens deliberately called the organization, African Hoop Opportunities Providing an Education, seeking basketball players.
The IHSA board is expected to consider Mooseheart's case about 1 p.m Monday at the organization's Bloomington office.