One of the state’s top girls basketball players, a Wiregrass product, has had her senior season put on hold.
Charles Henderson standout Maori Davenport, last year’s runner-up for the state Miss Basketball award and a recent Rutgers University signee, was ruled ineligible by the Alabama High School Athletic Association Friday regarding a check from USA Basketball.
Davenport, rated a top 15 national prospect by espn.com, played for Team USA in the FIBA Americas U18 Tournament in Mexico City in August.
Charles Henderson is appealing the AHSAA ruling. If unsuccessful in the appeal process, Davenport would be ineligible for the rest of the season.
“As of right now, Maori has been ruled ineligible by the Alabama High School Athletic Association because of a check written to her by USA Basketball,” Charles Henderson principal Brock Kelley told the Dothan Eagle Monday. “She played for USA, representing the state of Alabama, this summer. Every girl on the team got one (a check) and they (USA Basketball) realized they made a mistake in writing one to her.”
The checks, according to Kelley’s understanding, were supposed to be given to only the players who had finished their high school eligibility. Davenport was one of two underclassmen on the team. All the other players had all graduated from high schools.
“She has returned the money, but it (the check) violated an AHSAA rule. We feel she didn’t do anything wrong and we will go through the appeals process. In our opinion, we don’t think she did anything wrong and that it was a mistake by USA Basketball.”
Kelley said Davenport’s family became aware of a potential problem and informed the AHSAA of what happened. Kelley said about a month passed between the check and when the problem was noticed.
AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said the appeals process with the association is a two-step procedure.
“The first appeal is to the district level,” said Savareese, referring to a local four-person panel that is elected by the schools. Charles Henderson, like all of the Wiregrass schools, is in District 2.
“If the district upholds the association’s ruling, they can go to the second level, which is the state Central Board of Control.
“If the district overturns the ruling of the executive director, it automatically goes to the Central Board.”
Savarese said a school can start the appeals process immediately.
Kelley said the school was still in the initial stages of working up the appeal and was not sure of a time frame yet.
“It definitely has put everybody in a bad situation,” Kelley said. “We definitely don’t think Maori is at fault. It is just a lot of things fell in the wrong direction that led to this. The AHSAA said they had to uphold the rules and we understand that.
“We will go through the right channels and try to get her back on the court as soon as possible.”
Charles Henderson head coach Dyneshia Jones, when reached Monday afternoon, said she preferred to wait through the appeal process before making any comments on the situation.
Jones, though, said she believes the situation does not affect Davenport’s college eligibility or her scholarship to Rutgers.
The AHSAA ruling came down on Friday afternoon and Davenport did not play in the Trojans’ win over Eufaula Friday night. Charles Henderson plays again tonight against Enterprise.
Last year, the 6-foot-4 Davenport, a center, averaged 18.4 points, 12.2 rebounds, 5.2 blocks and 1.7 assists a game in helping lead the Trojans to a 32-4 record and to the Class 5A state title.
She earned 17 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocked shots in Charles Henderson’s 55-37 championship win over Central of Tuscaloosa and was named the 5A state tournament MVP.
Two years ago as a sophomore, Davenport averaged 17.6 points, 15.4 rebounds and 6.8 blocked shots a game, while also earning 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals per outing. She finished the season with 244 blocked shots, which ranks second all-time in AHSAA history.
She helped Charles Henderson finish as the Class 5A state runner-up that year and to a 30-6 record. She was especially dominant in a state championship game loss to Wenonah, earning 20 points, 25 rebounds and a state-record 19 blocked shots.
During the summer while playing for Team USA, the senior from Troy averaged 7.8 points per game, seven rebounds and blocked 16 shots as Team USA went 6-0 in the tournament. She was named to the all-tournament team. Team USA defeated Canada in the gold medal game, wrapping up a tournament where it outscored opponents 559-274.
In addition to finishing second in this past year’s Miss Basketball voting, Davenport finished third in the same voting as a sophomore. She is a three-time Dothan Eagle Super 12 honoree, winning the Eagle’s player of the year in 2016-17.