August 26, 2011
Aquille Carr is one of the country's most exciting young basketball players. The 5-foot-6 Baltimore (Md.) Patterson High point guard scores in bunches, plays with a flair rarely seen at the high school level and once even convinced an Italian pro team to extend a lucrative professional offer to him … at the age of 16.
All of those reasons made Carr a no-brainer selection for the Boost Mobile Elite 24, a high school all-star game which brings many of the country's best players to California for a one-off game chock full of top drawer talent. There's only one problem: He can't go, because the Baltimore City Public Schools and Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association said doing so might make him ineligible to play in the 2011-12 season.
In a last second change, Carr was still flying out to California for the event on Friday, though it remains undetermined if he will be cleared to play. According to one Carr family source, ESPN was taking the extraordinary step of appealing the MPSAA's reasons for withholding him from the event directly with the state organization itself in the hopes of brokering a last-second peace accord.
Not surprisingly, Carr was disappointed with the governing bodies' decision, though he eventually decided to skip the game to ensure that his next season would be safe.
"I think they are just singling me out," Carr texted to a Prep Rally source. "They don't want to see me succeed. Its not right, Ive worked too hard to make it to that game and now they are not letting me go through with it."
Carr has a pretty valid reason for being upset, too: Past precedent says would dictate that he should be getting ready to play in California. According to the Baltimore Sun, in 2009, then Lake Clifton (Md.) High star Josh Selby played in the fourth edition of the Boost Mobile Classic, which brings together both high school and professional players for the event. Selby was neither declared ineligible the next season, nor was his availability for Lake Clifton ever even questioned by the MPSSAA.
That's just part of what had Carr's father, Alvin Carr, fuming at the decision. Those emotions were telling in a letter the elder Carr sent to officials for Baltimore Public Schools and the MPSSAA, which Prep Rally obtained a copy of on Thursday.
Baltimore City Schools along with Maryland State Secondary Schools are in an attempt to deprive my son his right to compete in the biggest all-star game of the summer without any appropriate justification. The Boost Mobile Elite 24 game is no stranger to Baltimore kids; in 2009 this very same game featured both Rosoce Smith (UCONN) and Will Barton (Memphis) who were both transferring from Maryland Secondary schools at the time. The game also headlined Josh Selby who at the time was a rising senior at Lake Clifton High School which falls under the very same guidelines and procedures as Patterson High School where my son attends. When the question was proposed to, Baltimore City coordinator of Athletics, Bob Wade and his fellow colleagues they neglected to generate a legitimate or concrete reason as to why Aquille should be withheld from competition.
The Carr family isn't suffering frustration in isolation, either. On Thursday, a Facebook page was set up titled "Let Aquille Carr Play." Within hours, the page had more than 1,000 fans, some of whom directed their angst squarely at the MPSSAA and Baltimore City Schools.
"Denying a kid exposure in his intended line of work, when it could help his life/career and those around him, is criminal," Facebook user Robert Benson wrote on the page. "Clearly the governing body hates kids."
While that statement might be a bit strong, it holds some truth. While other players from across the country compete at the event -- and get national exposure on the ESPN family of networks for doing so -- Carr will sit in on the sidelines with little but opaque threats of future eligibility cast against him.
"You read everything that they have connected with it and it smacks of a high school all-star game," MPSAA executive director Ned Sparks told the Sun, citing a possible violation of the association's 'Limits of Participation clause' in citing the Boost Elite 24 as a potential high school all-star game, as opposed to an AAU all-star game. "So you advise that it may be something that you want to stay away from, because you come back and the violation really does not occur until the student goes out and plays in one of our games."
Now it likely won't occur at all. That isn't necessarily fair to Carr, or to the game, which will be poorer for his absence.