Patterson basketball sensation Aquille Carr could not have imagined a better way to end his summer vacation than taking a trip to California to do what he loves most — play ball.
The opportunity came earlier this month when the rising junior guard — The Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Player of the Year last season — accepted an invitation to play in the sixth annual Boost Mobile Elite 24, set for 7 p.m. Saturday in Venice.
But after hearing Tuesday afternoon from Baltimore City Public Schools — which, in conjunction with the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, concluded that Carr's participation could potentially risk his eligibility for the coming season — Carr unpacked his bags and is instead staying home.
"For me to see the disappointment in his face, it just felt like somebody took something away from him," said Alan Carr, Aquille's father. "He's worked hard and just loves to play, but we weren't going to jeopardize his whole year. It's disappointing."
MPSSAA executive director Ned Sparks said the potential violation involves the rule in the state's handbook under "Limits of Participation" and determining whether the event is considered a high school all-star game or an event affiliated with an outside group — such as AAU summer basketball, which would be permissable.
A second issue under the same rule is whether the student-athlete was contacted through his school rather than the outside organization, which would be a violation.
This summer, Carr has spent time with the Under Armour B'More's Finest and Team Melo AAU programs.
Sponsored by ESPN and also in connection with Under Armour, the Boost Mobile game, which will be televised live on ESPNU, features 24 of the top high school players in the nation, selected by ESPN high school basketball experts and other leading talent evaluators. When the announcement of selected players was released on Aug. 11, ESPN wrote that players were chosen "based on their performance during AAU tournaments and national summer camps."
Sparks isn't so sure, saying: "It is almost like the sentence there is just kind of their cover sentence to say it's OK. If you read the very sentence above it, it says participants are selected by ESPN high school basketball experts."
"You read everything that they have connected with it and it smacks of a high school all-star game," Sparks added, "so you advise that it may be something that you want to stay away from, because you come back and the violation really does not occur until the student goes out and plays in one of our games."
Had Carr decided to go, he would have possibly risked his eligibility if reported. And once he stepped on the court for Patterson in December, there would be a chance that Baltimore City Public Schools would investigate the matter and apply any penalties in accordance of what's prescribed in the state regulations.
"We do not comment on any specific student's issues. However, we do adhere to the MPSSAA rules and guidelines, so whatever their guidelines stipulate that's what we go by," said Edie House-Foster, manager of public information for Baltimore City Public Schools.
Many close to Carr's AAU association strongly disagree that him playing in this weekend's game violates his eligibility.
In 2009, former Lake Clifton standout Josh Selby played in the same game before his senior year with no questions being raised. Other summer showcase games — most recently last Saturday's Bmorehoops.com All-Star event in East Baltimore — featured public high school players (including Carr) with no warnings of a possible eligibility violation.
"I think the main thing that needs to be focused on is the fact that Aquille's reputation outside of Baltimore has nothing to do with his high school team because there's no exposure to his high school team outside of Baltimore," said Maeshon Witherspoon, Selby's mother, who still has close ties to Team Melo. "It's based off his summer play, and he's played with a couple different AAU programs this year. That's why they make the [roster] decisions near the end of the summer and not at the end of the high school season."
St. Frances coach Mark Karcher, who also is in charge of the Under Armour Grassroots Program and is affiliated with Carr's UA Team, said he was contacted by a member of the game's board to see whether Aquille could play.
"It's summer time and this doesn't have anything to do with Patterson basketball," Karcher said.
Alan Carr told his son to keep working hard.
"He just wants to play," Alan Carr said. "If it was for a good reason, I could understand, but there is no good reason."