Rutgers signee ruled ineligible for senior season after Team USA's mistake

Cassandra NegleyYahoo Sports Contributor
A Rutgers’ signee has to sit out her senior high school season. (Getty Images)
A Rutgers’ signee has to sit out her senior high school season. (Getty Images)

A Rutgers University recruit is sitting out her senior season of high school after an error by USA Basketball led to her being ruled ineligible by the state association.

Maori Davenport is ranked 15th in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 for the Class of 2019 and signed in November to play college ball at Rutgers. After four games with Charles Henderson High School in Troy, the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) contacted Davenport to tell her she was ineligible for the remainder of the year after inadvertently accepting money while playing for Team USA over the summer.

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Davenport leads Team USA to victory

Team USA won the FIBA Americas U18 championship in Mexico City over the summer with Davenport, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, leading the squad in rebounds (42) and blocks (16) over six games. She had the second-best field goal percentage on the team at .640 (18-for-28).

She was named to the FIBA Americas all-tournament team with averages of 7.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.

USA Basketball pays its players a stipend check to cover costs such as lost wages and employment opportunities for those without any high school eligibility left. For those in high school, of which there were three players on the 2018 team, the organization contacts the state association.

Davenport received a $857.20 check, according to ESPN, and deposited it thinking it was “legit” because it came from USA Basketball. But the organization overlooked calling AHSAA to check its bylaws.

Innocent mistake

USA Basketball recognized its mistake in sending the check and contacted the school and AHSAA. Davenport returned the money, but AHSAA ruled her ineligible on Nov. 30 and held it up on two appeals to each of the district and central boards.

USA Basketball spokesman Craig Miller told ESPN the organization is “disappointed” with the decision and said he’s never seen such a thing happen in the 29 years he’s been there.

“We didn’t realize [Davenport] had high school eligibility remaining, and it was absolutely our mistake,” Miller told ESPN. 

The two other players with high school eligibility remaining received checks as well. Notre Dame recruit Anaya Peoples repaid the money and her eligibility was restored in Illinois, per ESPN. Missouri recruit Aijha Blackwell said she intends to repay the money, according to ESPN, and is in the process of transferring out of an expensive private school in Missouri.

Missing chances

Davenport led her high school to the state championship in 2018, winning MVP honors, but will not have the chance to do it again. She averaged 18.2 points, 12.0 rebounds, 5.1 blocks and 1.7 assists per game.

She’ll also miss the chance to become a McDonald’s All-American and earn the Alabama Miss Basketball honor.

Davenport told ESPN:

Maybe something good can come out of this. Maybe the rule gets changed. It may not help me, but I don’t want this to happen to any other athlete.

Her eligibility at Rutgers is not at stake, though she’ll lose an entire season of play as well as the special moments that accompany a senior campaign.

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