Alabama lawmakers urge prep officials to reinstate player

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Suspended prep basketball player Maori Davenport addressed Alabama's Republican and Democratic caucuses Tuesday about her situation and several lawmakers have urged state high school officials to reinstate her.

Davenport, a senior at Charles Henderson High School in Troy, Alabama has been ruled ineligible by state high school officials after receiving an $857.20 check from USA Basketball, which has been repaid.

The 6-foot-4 Davenport told The Associated Press while she and her parents visited the Alabama Statehouse that she doesn't believe she did anything wrong.

"I hope to play again this year, but if I don't get to play again, I just want them to help this not happen to any other student-athlete in Alabama," said Davenport, who has signed to play college basketball at Rutgers.

USA Basketball gave Davenport the check for "lost wages" after she played for the team in a tournament last summer, inadvertently running afoul of the Alabama High School Athletic Association's amateur rule.

She has received an outpouring of support from around the country, including from Golden State Warriors center Demarcus Cousins and Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer.

"It just makes me feel like the world has my back in this situation, so I'm not wrong," Davenport said.

USA Basketball reported the payment a few months later and Davenport's family repaid the money.

Her mother, Tara Davenport, is a middle school coach who also assists with the high school team. Tara Davenport said "the sad part about it" is that adults made the mistake and her daughter is the one being punished for it.

"I thought because it was USA that it wouldn't have gotten to this point because USA admitted their mistake," Tara Davenport said. "Her dad and I sent the money back ASAP, but unfortunately that didn't matter either."

The Davenports were notified of the error on Nov. 26, reported it to the AHSAA on Nov. 27 and repaid the money the following day, according to Charles Henderson Principal Brock Kelley.

"My school has respectfully proceeded through the steps of the appeal process, but we have been met with a 'rules are rules mindset' throughout," Kelley said in a statement Tuesday. "I understand rules and believe in the fundamental aspects of rules. However, in this case, this is beyond the basketball court, beyond the rule book, and beyond this basketball season.

"This case is about character. It's about integrity. It's about doing the right thing and correcting a mistake when it's is realized. The AHSAA never knew anything about the check until the Davenports reported it to them. The Davenports reported it to AHSAA and sent the money back within 48 hours of realizing Maori could not accept the check."

Two other high school players from other states also received checks from USA Basketball.

Notre Dame recruit Anaya Peoples of Illinois remained eligible after repaying the money at about the same time as Davenport, USA Basketball spokesman Craig Miller said.

Aijha Blackwell of Missouri has left her private school. Miller said state high school athletic officials have indicated to USA Basketball that the University of Missouri signee will be able to play once she is ruled eligible at another school under transfer rules and repays the money.

A spokesman for the Missouri State High School Activities Association said he could not comment on students' eligibility, but said the organization has a similar amateur rule to Alabama.

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