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February 10, 2010

In-season hoops transfers becoming an issue

MORE: Check out the latest RivalsHigh Hoops 100 | New all-time steals leader in Kentucky

There is the travel cross country, often just for a single game. There is increased media coverage, including magazines and Web sites devoted entirely to their sport. And don't forget about the frequent appearances on TV, both locally and nationally.

High school basketball has been mimicking the pro game for years, but the latest example may be a bit more troubling than a concern about too-much, too-soon.

Top-level players not only are transferring schools, but they are doing it during the season. And since there is not a national governing body to oversee the moves - not to mention determine eligibility - there often is turmoil on both ends of the moves, especially when a player goes back to a public school after time at a high-profile institution.

In the past two school years, four high-profile high school basketball players have transferred during the season.

Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep coach Michael Peck has experienced both sides of the issue.

Highly touted 6-5 guard Jabari Brown left Findlay Prep during the Christmas break and transferred back to his hometown Oakland (Calif.) High, his third high school in two years. Brown led Salesian-Richmond to a California state title a year ago and left for Findlay in June.

Fannie Brown, Jabari's mother, said the family was "pleased with the Henderson International School" that is associated with Findlay Prep, but that her son returned home in part for "hardship" reasons, citing several family issues.

After playing in two games for Oakland, his eligibility was challenged. He sat out three games before he was declared eligible Jan. 25 by the California Interscholastic Federation.

"It was a decision that he made and that was in his best interest," said Peck, whose team is ranked No. 13 in the most recent RivalsHigh 100 basketball rankings. "I've always been the first one to say that our program is not for everyone. And if a kid doesn't want to be here then we don't want him to be here. If he doesn't want it for himself, then it's never going to work."

A year ago, Peck was on the receiving end when another high-profile player opted to switch schools in the middle of the season.

After he was kicked off the team at Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's in February 2009 for what head coach Dan Hurley called "public insubordination," 6-10 forward Tristan Thompson landed at Findlay Prep, which featured his friend and fellow Canadian, Cory Joseph. Thompson was able to suit up the next week and later helped Findlay win the inaugural ESPN Rise National High School Invitational.

"It was one of those situations that was unexpected but nonetheless it happened and we used Cory's word in terms of, 'Hey, Cory, tell me is Tristan a good fit?' Is there anything we need to know about in terms of issues or concerns. He said, 'No coach, he's solid.' Cory is and has been solid so his word was worth its weight in gold for us. That was pretty much the selling point for us that Cory put his stamp on it," Peck said.

Thompson said he and Hurley have since repaired their relationship.

"Me and Coach Hurley are still cool," he said. "We text and there's no bad blood."

Once a player establishes residency in a different state, he is generally able to suit up immediately at his new school. And because there is no national governing body monitoring the transfers, each state or locality decides eligibility on a case-by-case basis.

"Each individual school has their own eligibility rules," said Rockville (Md.) Montrose Christian coach Stu Vetter, whose team is ranked No. 43 and plays Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony Feb. 13 in the Primetime Shootout at Sun National Bank Center.

Vetter should know.

He recently received a phone call from Marcine Ross, the mother of star shooting guard Terrence Ross, informing him that her son, a onetime Maryland commit, would be leaving Montrose Christian.

After reports initially surfaced that the 6-5, 180-pound Ross would land at Phoenix (Ariz.) Westwind Academy, OregonLive.com reported that Ross had enrolled at Portland (Ore.) Jefferson High, the school he had departed after the 2008 season. The Web site reported that Ross was not yet eligible at his new school.

Get the moving van ready
Transfering in high school football often comes with a mandatory year of ineligibilty, but here is a look at some big-name players who have changed schools recently.
PlayerOld SchoolNew School
Jabari BrownFindlay Prep Oakland (Calif.)
LaQuinton RossMurrah (Miss.) Life Center (NJ)
Terrence RossMontrose Christian Jefferson (Ore.)
Tristan ThompsonSt. Benedict's Findlay Prep
"The first thing is to get him in classes and make sure his academics are in order," Jefferson coach Pat Strickland told OregonLive.com. "We are inquiring about his eligibility, but all of that is in the hands of our school administrators, so we're just waiting to see what happens."

If Ross, the No. 10 shooting guard in the Class of 2010, becomes eligible, he could pair with Terrence Jones, a top 20 national recruit, to have a major impact on the 5A classification in Oregon. Jefferson is already ranked No. 1 in the state of Oregon by Rivals.com and No. 30 in the RivalsHigh 100.

Update: (Oregonlive is now reporting Ross not likely to gain eligibility)

Back at Montrose Christian, which has dropped two straight since Ross and his 20 points and 10 rebounds departed, Vetter was left "surprised" by the transfer.

"His mom decided that she wanted to move him and obviously that's her decision," Vetter said. "From Montrose's standpoint we wish him the best. We're disappointed but by the same token it was a parental decision."

He added: "In general I would like to see players with more loyalty to their teams but that's an individual decision."

Perhaps the coaches at Jackson (Miss.) Murrah High School would echo that sentiment after 6-9 junior LaQuinton Ross departed in January for Burlington (N.J.) Life Center Academy, an independent school.

"I'm kind of surprised Q's leaving now," longtime Mustangs coach Bob Frith told The Clarion-Ledger last month. "I'd heard a little bit, but I didn't think it was going to happen during the season. I figured it would be at the end of the school year. Nobody really told me anything."

The No. 9 small forward in the Class of 2011, Ross enrolled at Burlington on a Monday last month and played his first game that Friday. He's had an immediate impact.

In his second game, Ross had 25 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Hotchkiss (Conn.) in the Big Apple Invitational in Manhattan.

"He's probably like a Kevin Durant type of player," Burlington coach Wilson Arroyo . "He's all of 6-8, 6-9, has great handle. He can shoot. He has pro form when he shoots the ball. He's really long. He gets by his defenders and attacks the basket but can also hit from outside. He's really good from outside."

Arroyo said Ross' family is limiting his interviews since the transfer but that he's "really happy and really likes being here."

Ohmar Carter, a Mississippi-based youth basketball coach, told The Clarion-Ledger that Ross' family wanted him in a more structured environment.

"I think Q's family was looking for a situation with a stronger foundation and a more structured environment," Carter told the newspaper. "Q had every intention of finishing high school in Mississippi, but he wasn't going to be allowed to transfer in Mississippi again. It's important for these kids to have everything in line, not just athletically but academically also. His family wants Q to be pushed to his ability."

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