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Multiple Chicago high school players, coaches ruled ineligible for playoffs over residency probe

Key high school basketball playoff game postponed after probe into Chicago player's eligibility
Key high school basketball playoff game postponed after probe into Chicago player's eligibility 03:10

CHICAGO (CBS) – Five players and three coaches at Chicago's Kenwood Academy High School have been ruled ineligible to participate in the boys' basketball playoffs amid an investigation into possible residency violations.

The Illinois High School Association announced the findings of the probe Thursday after postponing a playoff game between Kenwood, located at 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., and J. Sterling Morton High School, which has campuses in Cicero and Berwyn, shortly before tipoff of the Class 4A regional game on Wednesday.

The two teams were allowed to play, after all, on Thursday evening.

The IHSA, the body that governs high school sports in the state, said the investigation into the eligibility of Kenwood student-athletes began after a complaint was submitted by a Chicago Public Schools high school to the CPS Office of the Inspector General. The IHSA said it received evidence and documents from the OIG's ongoing investigation on Jan. 25.

After further investigation, the CPS OIG found evidence that multiple student-athletes on Kenwood's boys' basketball team used "falsified items (such as utility bills) to meet the residence requirements to attend Kenwood Academy. Others provided inaccurate home addresses to meet the residence requirements to attend Kenwood Academy."

The IHSA said it presented the evidence to Kenwood Academy administrators on Feb. 12. The school "had not refuted any of the evidence obtained" by the CPS OIG or IHSA.

After the IHSA informed Kenwood on Wednesday that its boys' basketball team would be suspended from the postseason, the school appealed the decision. The school was allowed to present new evidence during a hearing on Thursday -- after which the IHSA board changed its initial ruling to suspend the whole team to enable the team to keep playing but ruled that five players, the head coach, and two assistant coaches could no longer participate.

"It is our perspective that the CPS Office of the Inspector General believed there were clear violations of IHSA rules and CPS rules within the Kenwood Academy Basketball Program," said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson in a statement. "While its investigation was not yet complete, the CPS Office of the Inspector General wanted to provide both the IHSA and CPS with the evidence and information they had collected thus far prior to the start of the IHSA Boys Basketball State Series."

In an interview with CBS 2 on Thursday, multiple Kenwood Academy players said they just wanted to play ball.

"Don't try and take it away from us now," said Kenwood senior Edwon Duling. "We got too far. Like, it's the last state tournament [for seniors]. Why try and take it now?"

Duling said he was one of the players whose eligibility was being investigated. He said he was enrolled in CPS through the Students in Temporary Living Situations program (STLS), used for students with unstable housing situations. He said his housing status was being questioned.

Duling felt he was being "antagonized" by the IHSA.

"I'm 18 years old," he said. "I go from home to home. I just don't feel like it's right."

CPS said in a frequently asked questions section on its website that students enrolled through STLS are able to participate in sports "in the same manner as all other students."

"It hurts really bad that they're trying to take something that I really love, and I can't even do something I enjoy doing," Duling said. "I can't even go to school without being questioned."

Duling's teammate Jaden Smith said the postponement came at a crucial time when some of the players could land college scholarships.

"We're trying to go to school for free," Smith said. "These are my brothers, and they're trying to go to school for free through basketball."

In a statement, the IHSA said, "Eligibility is essential to the integrity of IHSA events, and if an ineligible player is discovered to have participated, it could have significant consequences."

Kenwood still came out ahead Thursday night, beating Morton 81-36. Kenwood is now scheduled to play Oak Lawn Community High School on Friday at 6 p.m. in the regional final.

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