Farmer's transfer to Arundel stirs debate

October 27, 1994|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,Sun Staff Writer

All-County basketball player Marquise Farmer, who last season led Glen Burnie to its first state semifinal appearance since 1961, has transferred to Arundel.

Farmer is the fifth basketball player to transfer to Arundel in the past two years, but his move is unprecedented.

The 6-foot-6 senior is living with Arundel coach Gerald Moore and his family in Odenton, which is in the Arundel school district.

"It was a joint decision [his and Moore's] and my only opportunity to get a scholarship," said Farmer, who averaged 12 points and eight rebounds for the Gophers (20-5) last season.

"I felt bad leaving Glen Burnie, but I would have been uncomfortable there and am more comfortable with Gerald. It HTC was either that or move to New Jersey with my mom."

Farmer's mother is in the Army.

Neither the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association nor Anne Arundel County has an athletic transfer policy that might prevent him from playing for the Wildcats. However, Ned Sparks, the secretary of the MPSSAA, said the Farmer case was unusual.

"That sounds suspect, sounds like some priorities are out of order," said Sparks. "It's the first time that I know of that we've had a player living with a coach. We've had players living with players and people renting out basements to allow kids to transfer to certain schools, but I don't ever remember a player living with a coach in our public school system.

"Unfortunately, our rules and regulations can be manipulated and sometimes things are taken out of proportion and the kids are supposed to be there to get an education, not to just play athletics."

Farmer's transfer has been approved by the county school board and the Pupil Services Department based on his age of 18.

"I think it's a question of ethics when a player is living with the coach of the school he transferred to," said Glen Burnie coach Terry Bogle. "No hard feelings, but I'm disappointed in Marquise because I tried to help him."

Farmer, who turns 19 in January, is considered "emancipated and self-sufficient" -- he works at a Wendy's and pays Moore unspecified rent -- by the county school board and thus can live anywhere he wants and attend the school in the district he chooses.

"We needed to make sure everything was on the up and up and turned it over to the board," said Bernie Walter, Arundel's athletic director and baseball coach. "Two weeks ago, the board officially approved his transfer, and if the board says OK, we have to let him go to school there.

"We're convinced Gerald did not recruit him."

Still, county officials have become concerned about the number of recent transfers.

"While the county has no athletic transfer policy, there is a growing concern over the number of athletes moving and it is an agenda item for this November," said Rick Wiles, the county coordinator of physical education.

Severna Park sophomore basketball standout Bakari Ward was granted a transfer to Arundel for academic reasons last year and is now a senior. Normal school board procedure would transfer such students to a school near the student's residence. Annapolis, Chesapeake, Northeast and Broadneck are closer to Berrywood, where Ward lives.

Other basketball transfers to Arundel besides Ward, who was second-team All-County last year, are Kenny Clay and Denarius McCant, who left Lansdowne and Oakland Mills, respectively, and now are living in the Arundel district. Sean Soyars, an All-County pick last season who graduated last spring, was a transfer from DeMatha.

All but McCant, who lives with his father five doors from Moore's home, have played at one time or another on Moore's AAU summer team. As a result, county coaches are wondering if Moore is recruiting, which is illegal.

"I know what they are saying, but I'm not recruiting out there," said Moore, who's in his sixth year as head coach. "Have you ever seen that list of 15 ways you can transfer? You can play within the rules and transfer anywhere you want. . . . Bakari [Ward] was going to transfer somewhere."

"I don't enroll the kids. I work [hard] while others don't coach in the summer," said Moore, who is the only county basketball coach not on the staff at the school where he coaches.

With his mother in the military, Farmer started at Meade and entered Arundel after the basketball season two years ago. Last year, his mother was transferred to Kansas, and Farmer went to live with his mother's boyfriend's parents in the Glen Burnie district.

The school board said he could not attend Arundel and moved him to Glen Burnie, where he played high school basketball for the first time.

"But he was living in a crowded house with people sleeping on the floor," said Moore. "Older siblings had come back home, and there were too many people living there. Now, he has his own bathroom and bed.

"He brought all his stuff in one trash bag, all his belongings, and you know how materialistic this world is. He's living in my basement because he had nowhere else to go when his mom moved to New Jersey and he has no parents here."

Bogle disagrees, and said he found Farmer a place to live and a job. "He came to me with his problems and I went out and found him a place to live with one of our parents and found him a job, but he told me that Gerald had offered him a place to live and that he was going to do that," Bogle said.

Said Moore, "Marquise had no chance, and now he is growing up the right way."

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