January 30, 2014
With the basketball regular season almost over and tournament play near, two Marshall Academy players from Australia have been ruled ineligible pending appeal.
Last week the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Athletics and Activities Commission overturned a recent ruling by the MAIS Eligibility Committee that granted hardship status to international students playing basketball at MA and Copiah Academy.
Tommy Gunn, headmaster at MA, said the school would make a final appeal to the MAIS executive committee on Wednesday of this week.
The hardship was granted January 7, and if it remains overturned after the final appeal, the Marshall Academy Patriots and Lady Patriots will forfeit all wins prior to that hardship ruling, according to coach Craig Dailey.
“It’s a sad day for the kids and our school,” said Dailey, on his way home from Jackson after the AAC’s decision last Thursday. “There’s no way to make me realize this is not a hardship situation.
“We had every reason to believe they were eligible when they came here, based on precedence set by our association.”
He said Johnny Crnogorac and Chook Offner have been wonderful for the school, and not just on the basketball court.
“They’re great kids,” he said. “We all love them.”
Southern Sports & Travel, which covers MAIS sports, received a statement last Thursday night via email from MAIS Director of Activities Les Triplett:
“It is our policy to refrain from any comments on committee or AAC action involving eligibility cases,” Triplett said. “That info would have to come from the schools.”
John Crnogorac, Johnny’s father, said his son has become a part of the MA family.
“It’s great to see so much support for our kids (Australians Johnny and Chook) and it’s one of the reasons we never regretted sending Johnny over. He is surrounded at Marshall Academy by some amazing people who have made him part of their families.
“He’s experienced such amazing things, least of which is the basketball opportunities playing with MAIS. While we can appreciate any ruling on ineligibility, it would have been nice for them to see out the whole season.
“I could never speak from a local’s perspective as I just don’t have the knowledge, and everything since he got there is a blur. I just worry about them (Johnny and Chook).
“I know, however, they have plenty of people to support them and get them through this. Hopefully, their dreams of college ball aren’t over, too.”
If the AAC’s ineligibility ruling is verified by the MAIS executive committee this week, the Lady Patriots finish 7-3 in District 1-A, which means a number one seed for the tournament February 6-8 at Marvell (Ark.).
The Patriots end district play at 6-4 and will be seeded second. The Lady Patriots are 10-17 overall and the boys 10-16.
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