In the eyes of Chicago Public Schools officials, the senior season for Cliff Alexander-- the fourth-ranked boys' basketball player in Rivals.com's Class of 2014 rankings and a Kansas signee -- never happened.
The 6-foot-9, 240-pound Alexander's nationally ranked team, Chicago Curie Metropolitan High (24-1), must forfeit all 24 of its victories for failure to meet CPS academic requirements, according to an Associated Press report. Seven unnamed students reportedly did not maintain the district's minimum 2.0 GPA.
"As adults, educators and mentors, it is our responsibility to teach our students right from wrong," Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement released to the media, "and, unfortunately, the adults let these student athletes down by failing to do that and comply with CPS policies."
Curie coach Michael Oliver has since been suspended. Among his team's forfeited wins is one of the historically great basketball city's best ever games. In Chicago's always competitive public school league title game, Curie defeated perennial powerhouse Whitney Young 69-66 in a four-overtime thriller. Alexander and Whitney Young's Duke-bound senior Jahlil Okafor are considered the nation's best big men.
An anonymous phone call made to Chicago Public Schools officials prior to that game led to the investigation, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The CPS will not honor a champion this season, and Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said his team would not have accepted it if the district had offered.
"I feel bad for the kids, the school, the entire program. Mike (Oliver) is a good man. This is scathing," Slaughter told the Sun-Times. "I'm glad they didn't award it to us. We lost the ballgame on the court. We didn't want it. We would not accept it if they did award it to us because we did not win the game."
The entire season, however, may not be lost for Alexander. The statewide Illinois High School Association has different academic requirements than the Chicago Public Schools, according to multiple reports. Rather than a 2.0 GPA, the IHSA only requires students to pass five courses and achieve 2.5 credits prior to the state tournament, so there's an outside chance Curie could still compete. Curie received a bye to Tuesday's regional semifinals, and a separate IHSA investigation is expected to be completed Monday.
And if Curie can't contend this week, Alexander still has one prep game remaining in front of his hometown crowd -- the McDonald's All-American Game at Chicago's United Center on April 2.
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