Davenport hearing rescheduled for Feb. 1

Published 12:21 pm Friday, January 18, 2019

A hearing to determine whether Maori Davenport will be eligible for the remainder of her senior season on the CHHS girls basketball team has been delayed once again to Friday, Feb. 1.

The hearing was initially scheduled to be held today, Friday, Jan. 18 but was rescheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 22. The plaintiffs, Mario and Tara Davenport, were granted a request though Thursday to have the hearing moved to Feb. 1.

“I’m set to be in trial on Jan. 22, the day that it was scheduled,” said Carl Cole, attorney for the Davenport family. “We all got out our calendars with the court and selected Feb. 1 as a day that everybody can do it.”

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The delay of the court date effectively will make Davenport eligible for two more games during the regular season, including a home matchup against the cross-county rivals Pike County High School on Jan. 22.

The final game of the Trojans’ season is on the road against Enterprise at 5:30 p.m. Davenport’s hearing will be held at 9 a.m. at the Pike County Courthouse the same day and the outcome of the case would determine whether she is able to play.

Postseason play for the Trojans would begin on Feb. 5.

Cole said there’s always a possibility the court hearing date can change and hopes the situation is resolved without ever having to have the hearing.

“Lawyers know that no court date is ever a definite,” Cole said. “We’re optimistic there’s a way to get this worked out without having that hearing on Feb. 1, but we will prepare full speed as if it’s a certainty to go forward.”

Cole declined to elaborate on how the situation would be resolved outside of the courtroom, but said he “would believe two sides could reach some sort of agreement.”

“AHSAA may look at some new information reach a different decision,” he said.

Newly elected Circuit Judge Sonny Reagan granted a temporary restraining order against the Alabama High School Athletic Association last Friday barring the organization from keeping Davenport on the bench while she awaits the hearing.

However, Cole said he “thinks there is a provision” that would make it “up to the AHSAA on whether to forfeit games she played in” during the temporary restraining order.

Davenport was ruled ineligible by the AHSAA after learning that she received and deposited an $857.20 stipend check from USA Basketball for her time playing with the under-18 team in Mexico City, where she and her teammates took home a gold medal.

USA Basketball officials said they failed to follow protocol and ensure Davenport would be able to receive the check under the organization’s rules. Davenport’s family said officials with USA Basketball initially told them the check would not affect her eligibility. Once the Davenports were told the check was sent in error and that AHSAA rules did not allow for the check, the Davenports sent back another check for the same amount to USA Basketball within 48 hours.

The AHSAA stood by its decision to rule Davenport ineligible for her senior season and two AHSAA boards unanimously upheld the decision. The case has gained interest on national media and has been talked about by such sports stars as Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Billie Jean King.

The Alabama Legislature has also rallied around Davenport, passing a resolution urging the AHSAA to reinstate her and drafting a bill that would give the congressional body limited oversight over the association.

Cole, a north Alabama lawyer, said he is an alumni of Troy University and heard about the situation over the holidays while talking with family in the Troy area including one relative that is employed at CHHS.

“Like most things that don’t directly affect you, it fell off our radar,” Cole said. “But my 8-year-old son is not able to play basketball this year because he broke his leg playing football. I coach a youth team so he goes to a lot of practices and he was all down and out about not being able to practice and play and all those kinds of things – it was really just making me feel awful because of it. So I told him sometimes bad things just happen that are out of your control and so I was telling him Maori’s story and he said something to the effect of ‘That’s not fair; she doesn’t need a doctor to help her play, but could a lawyer help her? Daddy, being the best lawyer, could you help Maori?’ I said, ‘Well, maybe.’ And he said ‘You have to help Maori.’ So I circled back around and got in touch with our common friends who put me in touch with Tara. We discussed it a little bit and I decided I would take the case.”

Cole and the Davenports are seeking for a ruling at the hearing to restore Davenport’s eligibility permanently.