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Kane County judge to decide on eligibility of Mooseheart player

Published: Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 6:02 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Feb. 28, 2014 6:18 p.m. CST

GENEVA – Kane County Judge David Akemann is expected to decide Friday whether Mooseheart Red Ramblers basketball player Rodrigue Ceda Makindu should be able to play in Friday's regional final against Newark.

Aurora attorney Judd Lofchie on Wednesday filed a complaint against the Illinois High School Association for not allowing Makindu, who is from Congo, to play basketball. The case was in court on Thursday.

"This case is about fairness," Lofchie told Akemann on Thursday during a court hearing. "It's about letting him be able to play sports."

In his complaint, Lofchie alleged that the IHSA has illegally stopped Makindu from playing basketball and all sports by implementing a bylaw revision to the eligibility rules of the IHSA. Makindu came to Mooseheart through the help of Jim Schmidt, the athletic director at Plano School District.

"He is just trying to help a kid from a war-torn country," Lofchie said. "Makindu just wants to be here and get an education and play sports like a normal kid."

The case is similar to one from December 2012, when Akemann granted a restraining order that allowed three Mooseheart boys basketball players from South Sudan to continue competing until the Illinois High School Association's board of directors considered the matter. The board eventually ruled that the three basketball players would remain eligible, but the program was placed on probation.

Those students – Mangisto Deng, Akim Nyang and Makur Puou – are all key components of this year's team as seniors.

The IHSA in January 2013 approved a bylaw stating that international students attending school in Illinois who are not participating in an approved student exchange program "will not be eligible with respect to residence or transfer for the duration of their high school attendance unless they meet the requirements of the applicable provisions of the residency and transfer bylaws, as determined in an official ruling from the executive director."

Lofchie said that if the amendment was not passed, Makindu would be allowed to play sports because he resides at Mooseheart full-time. IHSA attorney Dave Bressler argued to Akemann that the IHSA is trying to keep the playing field level for all high school athletes.

"There would be significant harm to the public if you said the process was invalid," Bressler said.

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