November 29, 2011
Earlier in November, Prep Rally brought you the touching story of Lakers coach Mike Brown and the latest addition to his family, high school senior girls basketball player Nirra Fields. The UCLA commitment transferred to Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei High after agreeing to move in with the Browns following a junior season at Oak Hill (Va.) Academy.
Now, that decision is shrouded in controversy after the California Interscholastic Federation's Southern Section ruled that Fields is ineligible to compete for Mater Dei until further notice, because the governing body for California high school sports determined the Canadian did not make a valid change of residence before the 2011-12 school year.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the trick now will be proving that the teen deserves a hardship waiver, or one of the top female basketball players in the country will spend her final scholastic season on the sidelines. There is no possibility for Fields' change of residence to fall under the CIF's "valid" guidelines, because doing so would require that she continue to live with her legal guardian from her prior school.
That's not the case with the Browns, who have taken in the teen for her final year, in part because Fields' single male parent wanted her to see Mike Brown's wife, Carolyn Brown, as a positive female role model.
Whether or not Fields is eventually deemed to be eligible to compete for her new school remains to be seen, but her case seems predestined for a future court date between the CIF's Southern Section and Mater Dei. It wouldn't be the first of those, with past eligibility disputes leading the Catholic Diocese of Orange to file suit against the Southern Section during the 2010-11 school year. That lawsuit is set to be decided in February.
Until then, hurt feelings will remain on both sides, all while a very talented female basketball player waits in the wings -- and at the house of the Lakers' head coach -- for her chance to compete in one of girls high school basketball's most talent-deep states.