At 20-3, Dr. Krop (Fla.) High should be preparing for a state playoff run that could very well end in a state title. Instead, the state's top-ranked Class 6A team -- and the No. 19 team in the RivalsHigh 100 -- is sitting on pins and needles, waiting to learn whether it will even be eligible because of questions surrounding its star's nationality.
According to the Miami Herald, 19-year-old Krop star Bryan Delancy, a Bahamas native, has been attending and playing for Krop on a student visa. While there are no regulations against eligible foreign players competing for Florida high school programs, those players require the submission of paperwork certifying the player's status as a visiting student.
Officials at Dr. Krop reportedly failed to file that paperwork, meaning that Delancy was technically an ineligible player, a decision which would forced Krop to forfeit all 19 games in which he played, which would end the Lightning's season before the playoffs even begin.
"It's not fair," Delancy told the Herald. "We worked so hard this year. Why should this even matter?"
At a hearing on Tuesday, the Florida High School Athletic Association denied an appeal to re-instate both Delancy and his team's victories, filed by Dr. Krop officials after the FHSAA's initial decision that the 20-point, 10-rebound star was never technically eligible.
Florida state officials say that it matters because basketball is an extracurricular activity, not a part of the state's official educational process. While Florida schools will accept any students regardless of nationality, those students are only allowed to participate in the classroom.
Extracurricular participation, meanwhile, requires the completion of a specific official forms, the precise process which has now cast Delancy's eligibility in question.
Dr. Krop coach Shakey Rodriguez said the school has never tried to hide Delancy's nationality, and that they brought the issue to the attention of the Florida High School Activities Association as soon as an opposing team raised it as a potential issue.
"When we heard there was a commotion we went forward with information," Rodriguez told the Herald. "We were trying to be honest with the whole situation.
"We have never had a situation where we've had to deal with this. I thought immigration status was not something we're supposed to ask about."
Yet the teen and his coach's honesty may not be enough to save the school's postseason eligibility, with the FHSAA citing concerns over setting a dangerous precedent should he be allowed to play retroactively. Delancy's attorneys have already filed a request for a court injunction, which would allow Dr. Krop to continue to compete, with a court hearing expected Wednesday.
"The rules we have in place are to protect the integrity of interscholastic athletics," FHSAA associate executive director M. Denarvise Thornton told the Herald. "There have been cases where schools have abused the privilege of allowing international and other non-traditional students to participate."
For the time being, all Delancy and his teammate can do now is wait for the ruling from Wednesday's injunction, hoping that a long season of hard work isn't negated by one administrative oversight, all while advocates for immigrant equality line up to support Delancy's case.
"We want our children to get involved in school and to do the right thing," Haitan woman of Miami executive director Marleine Bastien told the Herald. "These kids are doing the right thing."