Mooseheart is on the clock, and the school wasted no time beginning to satisfy the IHSA’s mandatory steps to have the school’s probation lifted in time for the basketball postseason.
The IHSA Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to overturn IHSA administrators’ previous ruling that Mooseheart boys basketball players Akim Nyang, Makur Puou and Mangisto Deng lose their eligibility to compete because of inappropriate recruiting on Mooseheart’s part. The IHSA, though, also placed Mooseheart on probation until the school re-assesses its admissions policies as they relate to IHSA bylaws, conducts training for coaches and staff members and presents IHSA executive director Marty Hickman with a compliance plan.
The expectation is Mooseheart will be able to complete those steps in time to have the probation lifted before the postseason begins. For the smaller-school classes – Mooseheart is a 1A program – regionals begin the week of Feb. 18. The school has no intention of cutting that timetable close.
“We started [Tuesday],” Mooseheart executive director Scott Hart said. “We heard the board’s direction loud and clear. We love being part of the IHSA, and we’ll do whatever it takes as adults to make sure our students have that opportunity in the postseason.”
Hart said it will be a group effort at Mooseheart to address the IHSA’s concerns, with athletic director Mark Johnson and superintendent Gary Urwiler taking the lead. Hart has balked at many of the IHSA’s findings during its original investigation, but said Mooseheart will take a closer look at the agencies that refer students to the school. African-Hoop Opportunities Providing an Education, the organization that sent Mooseheart the South Sudanese student-athletes, drew the IHSA’s ire because of its emphasis on athletics.
Like many at Mooseheart – including the South Sudanese trio – Hart had a physically and emotionally grueling day on Monday. The board hearing in Bloomington lasted about four hours, and Hart followed the team to its scheduled game Monday night at Hiawatha to show support.
Between dealing with IHSA officials, lawyers, unprecedented media attention and his usual responsibilities, the past few weeks have been a pressure cooker. Much of that tension melted, though, when Hart saw the big fellows on campus Tuesday morning.
“Just being at school this morning and seeing the boys walk in, smiling ear to ear, knowing that this weight has been lifted off their shoulders, it feels good,” Hart said. “We did the right thing. The process worked.”
Hart remarked on what an eventful couple years the teenagers have had.
“The day they arrived at Mooseheart, the day they celebrated the independence of South Sudan, having this ineligibility ruling overturned for them – I look ahead and see in a short time, in May of 2014, they’re going to be walking across the stage of our fieldhouse, receiving high school diplomas,” Hart said. “As long as some of these days seem, we realize it goes by in the twinkle of an eye. These boys are going to be young men real soon, and out on their own. It’s a privilege to serve them and other children at Mooseheart, and watch them grow.”
North’s Barr makes college call: Jenny Barr’s college soccer career at Miami (Ohio) is still a year and a half from beginning, but the St. Charles North junior’s recent college choice already has earned her extra brownie points around the house.
Barr’s older siblings, sister KK and brother Quint, each considered their father’s alma mater before deciding on other schools. Jenny, though, will follow in Jim Barr’s footsteps by attending college in Oxford, Ohio.
“He was very excited,” Barr said. “He’d have been excited wherever I went, but it just made it that much more special now that we have a college that we share. He’s been so excited. He’s been running around putting Miami of Ohio stickers on the car.”
Jim Barr, who did not compete athletically at the Mid-American Conference school, remains involved with Miami’s business school, Jenny Barr said.
Jenny Barr will be a freshman at Miami when KK Barr is a senior at Northwestern, where she is on the Wildcats’ soccer team. Jenny Barr watched a Miami-Northwestern soccer clash this season and is hopeful the matchup remains on the schools’ schedules.
Jenny Barr earned rave reviews for her defensive play during North’s run to the 3A state championship match last season despite little background playing in the back. She feels better prepared to develop into the attack-minded defender she envisions becoming for the RedHawks after acclimating more to defense in recent months with the Strikers club program.
“Every game and every practice I’m looking at the field from a defensive standpoint instead of being so [focused on offense],” Barr said. “I think that really helped me. Practice makes perfect.”
The North Stars were denied what would have been the school’s first state championship in a quadruple overtime loss to Naperville North. Barr said she and the team’s other returnees are eager to build on last year’s postseason success this spring.
“I think we’re still upset about the loss,” Barr said. “It was a tough one.”
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.