IHSA board: Mooseheart HS basketball players from Africa are eligible to play

December 10, 2012 (BLOOMINGTON, Ill.)

IHSA board members say testimony from the three basketball players made all the difference in their decision.

"My country Sudan, doesn't need basketball players or singers or anything like that. Our dream over there is, how are we going to survive tomorrow?" said Mangisto Deng.

"We're here for an education. We need an education, that's why we're in the United States," said Makur Puou.

"We really feel that the students were pawns in all of this. Honestly I don't think they knew what they were getting themselves into. They were just looking for a better life," said IHSA Board President Dan Klett.

The ruling makes Mooseheart ineligible for playoffs this year, until they refine and review the admission process, get training for coaches and administrators and submit a compliance plan.

"Were these boys duped? Maybe. But you know what? They're here in American, they're going to be able to live the American Dream, and then go back to Sudan and give back to their communities," said Coach Scott Hart.

Moments after hearing the favorable ruling, the Mooseheart players were on the court-- and beat their opponent.

Here is the IHSA board decision:

The Board having considered all the evidence, finds

1.) The investigation by Associate Executive Director Kurt Gibson to be complete and appropriate and

2.) The students were taken advantage of by A-Hope Foundation and people related to that organization.

The board hereby overturns the decision of the Executive Director and finds Manguisto Deng, Makur Puou, Hakim Nyang and Wal Khat (the "students") eligible to participate in interscholastic athletics at Mooseheart High School. In making this ruling, the board notes the students have previously served a 365 day period of ineligibility.

The Board has further determined that henceforth any school accepting referrals of students from A-Hope Foundation or any other organization having as its purpose the placement of student-athletes in educational settings, shall be presumptively ineligible.

Mooseheart shall be placed on probation immediately and shall be ineligible to participate is the 2013 IHSA Basketball State Series pending completion of the following to the satisfaction of the Executive Director:

1.) Review and refinement of the admissions process to assure compliance with IHSA By-laws and Procedures.

2.) Training and Education program for all Mooseheart coaches and administrators to assure compliance with IHSA By-laws, with particular focus on the unique structure of Mooseheart within the IHSA;

3.) Submission of a Compliance Plan.

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