Detroit Mercy's Maxine Moore back in transfer portal, calls ultimatum 'retaliation'

·7 min read

Detroit Mercy women’s basketball player Maxine Moore is back in the NCAA transfer portal.

Three days after Titans athletic director Robert Vowels told the junior forward she was no longer welcome on embattled coach AnnMarie Gilbert’s team in a video meeting, Moore confirmed to the Free Press she chose to enter the portal for the second time this offseason.

Moore said she is no longer entertaining the school’s offer to pay for her final year without playing for the Titans.

“Playing basketball for Detroit Mercy has been the biggest blessing of my life,” Moore told the Free Press. “Being able to play the game that I love, that has been at the heart of who I am as a person, at a prestigious Jesuit university has really been a dream come true. And I am completely shattered that I may have to desert my mother and my grandmother who depend on me for so much if I want to realize my dream of continuing to play college basketball.

“My family and I are just extremely blown away by the retaliation and the discrimination that I'm faced with.”

The 6-foot forward and former Birmingham Detroit Country Day star initially entered the transfer portal March 18, nearly two months after Vowels canceled the Titans season following a letter from all 14 Titans and their parents that detailed a “toxic” environment of player abuse and mistreatment and NCAA violations under first-year coach Gilbert.

[ Embattled Detroit Mercy women's basketball lands Louisiana Tech transfer ]

Moore withdrew her name April 18 with intention to finish her eligibility and degree in communications at UDM and emailed Vowels last week to figure out how to work her classes and internship around the team’s practice schedule.

Moore said she told by Vowels on Wednesday that Gilbert "wants to completely have a new team" and that the university supported that decision to give the player a choice to remain in school on scholarship but not complete her two years of eligibility or re-enter the portal and find another school. Moore began her college career at Western Michigan and has been with the Titans the past two seasons. Gilbert did not participate in the call, Moore said, and has not spoken to her former player since Jan. 16.

None of the 14 players from this season are returning to UDM. Vowels announced April 15 that he would retain Gilbert and, in a statement Thursday to the Free Press, said the university stood behind that decision.

[ UDM player blasts school on Twitter: My 'dream may no longer be achievable' ]

“Right now I just feel betrayed,” Moore said. “I feel abandoned by the athletic department and the university as a whole, minus a few of my wonderful professors in the communications department, who have made such a positive impact on my life and even on my future.

“As someone who was always looked to for leadership roles and as someone who has strived to represent the university and the women's basketball program in a positive light, it hurts me deeply that I am now being kicked out of the program for no reason at all other than for standing up for my teammates and for myself. I'm being villainized 100%. The way the situation was handled from the beginning is shameful, and it really should be a clear indication of poor leadership.”

Michigan State's Julia Ayrault, left, and Detroit's Maxine Moore battle for a rebound, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 82-45.
Michigan State's Julia Ayrault, left, and Detroit's Maxine Moore battle for a rebound, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 82-45.

Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association which advocates nationally for athletes, agreed after hearing the ultimatum Moore was given, adding it also applies to the other players who were forced into the transfer portal in what he termed "a hostile work environment."

“She's basically being removed from the team. And for what? What code of conduct did she violate, whether it be a student code of conduct or an athletics policy? Probably nothing,” Huma said. “But she's being removed from the team, she's being punished, because she use her voice, among others to blow the whistle on actions that the team is deeming abusive.”

Moore averaged 4.0 points and 1.6 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, shooting 44.8% but played in only seven games and opted to sit out due to stress fracture issues in early January. She had surgery in June 2020 but returned to running by August last year before a decision her and her mother made after a New Year’s Day game against Milwaukee.

Moore also was a member of the NCAA’s Division I Student-Athlete Engagement Group for the 2020-21 school year and holds leadership posts on campus and within the Horizon League, with a 3.85 grade-point average and has been part of Detroit Mercy Athletic Director's Honor Roll.

“To have Max decide she's going to stay and that she's willing to try to work with this coach, and then to cut her loose, to me that's unforgiveable,” said Tom Stanton, a UDM associate professor of journalism and a former faculty athletic representative for the school. “That shows real maturity on her part, that she was willing to try to make this work. And then the coach evidently is the one who said, 'No, I just don't want this headache.' And Max isn't a headache. She is one of the finest students I've had in recent years. She just goes out of the way to be productive, to be helpful to others, and this just feels so wrong.

“It feels like she made the adult decision to try to make it work with the team after all this took place, and that we who are in positions of authority made childish decisions in reaction to that.”

Gilbert has declined multiple interview requests from the Free Press through a university spokesman.

It means a second transfer situation for Moore, who came to UDM after a strong freshman season at Western Michigan in 2018-19 in which she was named the team’s sixth player of the year and made the dean’s list in both semesters.

In high school, Moore helped Country Day win three Class B state titles, including back-to-back in 2017 and 2018, and was among the top 20 players by the Free Press as a senior.

Moore’s grandfather is former Michigan football All-American Lowell Perry, and her uncle is current New York Knicks general manager Scott Perry, who played basketball at Wayne State and began his coaching career at UDM under Ricky Byrdsong.

Only one other player from last season’s UDM roster, Nichole Johanson, did not enter the transfer portal — sources say the Valparaiso transfer plans to remain at the UDM but will not play basketball for Gilbert. A second player, guard Aly Reiff, graduated from UDM recently but entered the portal to speak to a specific school. She instead chose to quit basketball and not take advantage of an extra year of eligibility with the NCAA’s COVID-19 waivers and enter the job market, her father Stan Reiff told the Free Press on Friday.

Four players already have found new schools for next season — Kaela Webb (Florida Gulf Coast), Annika Corcoran (Akron), Sylare Starks (Purdue Fort Wayne) and Sammiyah Hoskin (North Dakota). Others are continuing to explore their options and have been visiting with other programs.

That means UDM will have an entirely new roster for 2021-22 under Gilbert, who got hit with NCAA violations and was forced to resign at Eastern Michigan in 2012. The NCAA also gave her a show-cause banishment that did not permit her from coaching for two years.

Gilbert signed one recruit in guard Taylor Blunt, a Morgantown, Pennsylvania, native who pays at The Peddie School in New Jersey. She also added Louisiana Tech transfer Friday in Spanish forward Irene Murua, who did not play this winter.

The Titans announced the cancelation of the remainder of the 2020-21 season Jan. 20 after going 1-13 overall and 1-9 in Horizon League play in Gilbert's debut.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Mercy women's basketball: Maxine Moore exit for 'retaliation'