Alabama judge allows Maori Davenport to play high school basketball as court considers lawsuit

Photo: Joey Meredith/Charles Henderson HS

Alabama judge allows Maori Davenport to play high school basketball as court considers lawsuit

Girls Basketball

Alabama judge allows Maori Davenport to play high school basketball as court considers lawsuit

An Alabama judge granted an emergency motion Friday that will allow Maori Davenport to play while the court considers a lawsuit filed by her parents against the Alabama High School Athletic Association and its director, Steve Savarese.

The motion will allow Davenport, who had been ruled ineligible thus far this season, to return to the court for Charles Henderson (Ala.) High School’s game against Carroll High School on Friday night, according to her family’s lawyer, Carl Cole.

The news came less than 24 hours after Davenport’s parents filed a lawsuit in Pike County Circuit Court on Thursday, marking the latest twist in a story that has garnered national headlines in recent weeks.

Davenport, the No. 15 recruit in ESPN’s 2019 rankings, was suspended several months ago after USA Basketball mistakenly sent her a check for $857.20 following her participation in a FIBA U18 tournament. Believing the money did not violate AHSAA regulations, Davenport deposited the check in August. A few months later, when she learned it would jeopardize her eligibility, she repaid the money.

Maori Davenport, of Charles Henderson, is named the 5A Player of the Year during the annual Alabama Sport Writers Association Mr. and Miss Basketball Banquet in Montgomery, Ala. on Tuesday April 10, 2018. (Photo: Mickey Welsh/Montgomery Advertiser)

Despite her repayment, Savarese moved to suspend Davenport, a Rutgers commit, for the entirety of her senior season — a ruling that was upheld after multiple appeals.

According to the complaint, which was obtained by USA TODAY Sports on Friday morning, Davenport’s parents are seeking an order from the court declaring the senior basketball player eligible for the rest of the year and an injunction that would invalidate any future attempts to bar her from competing.

“The rule that Maori was disqualified under is not only arbitrary in its application to Maori, but arbitrary on its face,” the lawsuit alleges. “It allows for no distinction for an innocent mistake such as the case at bar and intentional payments with some intent to compensate players for pay or performance.”

ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas has been among the most vocal critics of the AHSAA’s decision, calling it “a travesty” and adding that Davenport “did absolutely nothing wrong.”

AHSAA Central Board of Control president Johnny Hardin defended the decision in a lengthy statement earlier this week, explaining that Davenport’s mother, coach and principal “should know the rules.”

An AHSAA spokesperson did not immediately reply to a request for comment Friday.

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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Alabama judge allows Maori Davenport to play high school basketball as court considers lawsuit
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