Memphis Hamilton, the No. 18 team in the current Super 25 boys basketball rankings, won’t be there for long following a dramatic twist in their dominant season.
As first reported by the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Wildcats will forfeit 15 of their 17 victories in the 2014-15 season because of the use of an ineligible player. The team is currently 18-0 and a favorite to compete for a state crown when the Tennessee postseason rolls around.
The ineligible player in question is reportedly 6-foot-7 center Tarrance Baker, one of the team’s crop of talented starters. Baker was ruled ineligible because he already exhausted the maximum number of semesters for which a player can be varsity eligible, but he apparently has not played during the prior week as Hamilton will not be asked to forfeit its three more recent victories.
Additionally, the program may have caught a major break when the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association decided it would not hold the Wildcats out of the state’s postseason competitions. Rather, Hamilton will get a chance to advance to the tournament, where it could win a state title, perhaps with a losing overall record.
The loss of Baker is a major blow to the team’s state and national hopes, though it may not be a fatal one to the path to earn a Tennessee crown. Multiple Wildcats were major contributors during the team’s upset of national power Oak Hill Academy of Virginia on national television, and two of the other top teams in the Memphis area — White Station and Ridgeway — couldn’t get within 18 points of Hamilton; the Wildcats 36-point rout of White Station was the first eye-opener which launched the team onto a national platform.
Meanwhile, the forfeits could have an intriguing impact on the rest of the season’s Super 25 rankings. Oak Hill, which has plateaued at No. 2 in the national rankings with it’s lone loss to Hamilton, is suddenly undefeated again, to no great credit of its own. So, is Oak Hill treated like a true unbeaten, or one with an asterisk? If Findlay Prep eventually falls, how does one shake out the likes of Oak Hill, Findlay and reining national champ Montverde Academy?
And, farther down the table, if Hamilton somehow runs the table, could it land in a nationally-ranked position toward the bottom of the Super 25 even though it technically sports a losing record?
Dial up the intrigue, folks. We must be hurdling toward the basketball postseason, and fast.