By RICK GREENE — The Independent
The Ohio High School Athletic Association is continuing to investigate whether the time North College Hill basketball player Bill Walker spent at Rose Hill Christian in the 2002-03 season will make him ineligible for his senior season at the Cincinnati school.
The OHSAA requested information about Walker’s academic history from Rose Hill officials and administrator Randy Douglas said a reply was sent this week.
At issue is whether Walker has exhausted his eight semesters of eligibility in Ohio. Walker has played the last three seasons at North College Hill, and Rose Hill officials say he was a freshman when he played in 16 games from Dec. 3, 2002 to Jan. 25, 2003.
“He was a freshman when he was here and he was a freshman when he left,” said Douglas, who said Rose Hill has indicated to the OHSAA that Walker was a freshman. “I went by what our records have. He took all ninth-grade classes and when he filled out his application it was circled that he was a ninth-grader.”
OHSAA representatives met with Walker, family members and North College Hill officials last month.
OHSAA Assistant Commissioner Bob Goldring told The Independent on Friday the issue is when Walker’s eligibility began.
“Ohio only allows eight semesters so the concern is if he’s exhausted those eight semesters,” Goldring said. “From our standpoint, the clock starts running when the student-athlete is a ninth-grader. That’s what’s unclear, when he was considered a ninth-grader.”
North College Hill Athletic Director Joe Nickel said the OHSAA will have to sort out conflicting information.
“We have things we’ve passed on to the OHSAA that I guess may be different than what someone else has. I don’t understand how school records can be different,” Nickel said. “The OHSAA will have to sort through it and make a decision.”
The 2002-2003 high school basketball preview published in The Independent listed Walker as a freshman and multiple articles in the newspaper that season referenced him as a freshman.
In December of 2002, Walker played in games at Elliott County, at Russell, at Lexington Catholic, four games in the King of the Bluegrass (DeSales, Ballard, Apollo and Miami Senior) and three games in the Fifth Third Bank Kentucky Holiday Classic (Trinity, Clark County and Simon Kenton).
In January of 2003, which would be considered a second semester, Walker competed in games against Morgan County, at Greenup County, Lewis County, at Lawrence County, and two games in the All “A” Classic (Elliott County and Raceland).
Jeff Hall, who coached the Royals for two seasons from 2001-2003, said Walker’s “handlers” removed him from the team following the Royals’ 16th Region All “A” Classic championship in late January of 2003. Hall said Walker’s AAU basketball coach, Dwaine Barnes, insisted Walker be placed back into the eighth grade.
“The people who were looking after Bill’s best interests, per se, demanded he be put back into the eighth grade,” Hall said. “When the school didn’t do that, Bill no longer became a part of our program.”
Walker and his ballyhooed North College Hill teammate O.J. Mayo, who attended Rose Hill from 2000 through the spring of 2003, were AAU teammates and led the D1 Greyhounds of Cincinnati to a national championship the previous summer.
Hall contends Walker was removed from Rose Hill because of AAU.
“My suspicion was that it was for AAU purposes because if he was a ninth-grader he would not have been eligible to play on O.J.’s 14-and-under AAU team,” said Hall, who also said Walker’s status could have brought scrutiny to the AAU national championship. “I think you really have to question the motives and who was pulling the strings.”
Barnes was unable to be reached for comment.
Hall said he believes the Rose Hill administration handled the situation correctly.
“From a school perspective, the right thing was done. He was making normal progress in the classroom, so at that point why in the world would a kid be put back?” said Hall, who claims he told Barnes that Walker’s future eligibility could be jeopardized. “Was Bill Walker really the main focus? If you ask me that question, I’d say absolutely not. You get some of these kids getting played like pawns in a chess game and that’s ridiculous.”
North College Hill is the two-time defending Ohio Division III state champion.
RICK GREENE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.