Kameron Chatman is one of the top-rated junior basketball players in the country. He holds scholarship offers to play for most of the Pac-12 Conference not to mention other national powers. He also spent the entire 2012-13 season playing for the junior varsity squad at Long Beach (Ca.) Polytechnic High.
If that doesn’t make sense, there’s a good reason: On talent, he should have been starring for the Jackrabbits’ varsity team. On a technicality he wasn’t allowed to play for them at all.
It’s also that technicality that makes Chatman’s appearance in the final 1:12 of Poly’s season on Tuesday night such a controversy. The junior was inserted into the game in its dying moments, with his coach knowing full well that injecting him then would land the coach, potentially the player and even the program in hot water with the California Interscholastic Federation, a group that has never been shy about levying out fines and harsh discipline.
As noted by the Los Angeles Times, the decision to play Chatman once the CIF Open Division Southern Section final was all but over was a unilateral one made by Poly head basketball coach Sharrief Metoyer, a man who also happens to be Chatman’s godfather. Chatman moved to Southern California to live with Metoyer, but that move was deemed to be made for competition’s sake, which meant that the budding forward couldn’t participate in a competitive game until one year after he arrived at the school.
Incredibly, that ban would have expired had Poly advanced to the Open Division regional final. Instead, the school fell to fellow California power Santa Ana (Ca.) Mater Dei, leaving Metoyer with the decision to play his godson as a statement or hold his tongue and wait for another year.
His decision was clear by his actions.
“Somebody had to make a statement," Metoyer told the Times. "The game of basketball means nothing -- we’re supposed to be in the business of helping kids.”
The Southern Section rule book specifically states that any team that plays an ineligible player can be suspended from the section itself. The fact that Poly did so knowingly would only seem to make that worse, and a spokesman for the section issued a fairly ominous statement to the Times’ Eric Sondheimer via text when asked about what could happen to the school.
"If an ineligible player was used in that contest, we will be discussing that with the school at our earliest possibility,” CIF Southern Section spokesman Thom Simmons told the Times.
Whether or not Simmons and the Southern Section take leniency on Poly remains to be seen. Either way, Metoyer is confident that he made the right decision in putting the junior into the game, if only briefly.
"I am not trying to be anything more than I am, but I am a role model, a mentor and somebody that's helping kids,” the coach told MaxPreps. “At the end of the day it was about this young man, it was not about me or Poly. His teammates love him."