Bzzzzzz… Bzzzzzz… Bzzzzzz… the alarm on athletic director’s Bob Smithson’s new IPhone 7 is annoying as hell… But, it serves it’s purpose. Smithson rises out of the bed, kisses his lovely wife, showers, eats breakfast, chats with his kids and make his way to the garage. The toughest decision of his morning awaits… take the SUV or the sedan?
He remembered… His wife has to pick up some new lamps, so he takes the sedan. Within minutes he is on I-476 headed toward Philadelphia. After the 35 minute commute, he arrives in the parking lot and heads into the Hilltop school building. The first bell rings in exactly 17 minutes, enough time to check a few emails from his coaches and down a cup of coffee…
Meanwhile, in the Cecil Johnson projects… Jamir Jenkins is running a lil’ late… His Mom works the overnight shift and he has to get his 3 younger siblings dressed and ready for school… Jamir quickly realizes his youngest sister doesn’t have a clean uniform. He finds a stain free shirt, grabs a washcloth, some dishwashing liquid and procedes to “spot clean” the tartan dress… “Good enough,” he tell his sister…
He pours store brand “Fruit Lupes” in 4 bowls… However, when he grabs the milk he realizes there’s only enough for maybe one serving. It’s the 27th of the month, so the balance on the ACCESS card has been $0 for nearly 2 weeks. All too familiar with this situation, Jamir “stretches” the milk so that the cereal in three bowls is at least moist. He quickly wolfs down his dry bowl.
After walking his siblings 3 blocks to school, Jamir jumps on the Broad Street subway… After two stops, he transfers to the Market-Frankford Elevated Train. He rides the “El” to 60th street. Once he exits, there’s a 12 minute wait for a bus that will drop him off at the school.
He arrives at the school, with 3 minutes to spare… He races to his homeroom, hitting the door just as the bell rings…
Soon as the bell quiets, on the other side of the building, Smithson opens an email titled “Jamir Jenkins Transfer”…
The Athletic Director at a Eastside High School town has written Smithson to let him know that he will not “sign off” on the paperwork that will allow Jamir to play varsity basketball.
See… Jamir played last season for Eastside… He was their best player… An incredible athlete, Jamir plays the game with a combination of finesse and power that is uncommon at the scholastic level. Standing 6’4” inches, he has a vertical leap exceeding 40 inches. His ball-handling skills are very solid and his shooting is excellent.
Jamir has emerged as a strong prospect for a Division 1 basketball scholarship. Schools like Fairleigh Dickinson, North Carolina A&T, Central Connecticut State and Robert Morris have expressed interest in offering him a scholarship. They all let him know that they will follow him during his high school season.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for Jamir. This is his way out… His father was murdered when he was 4 years old. His mother is struggling to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads. The cost of attending these schools for four years ranges from $160,000 to $240,000. There’s no way Jamir can attend without a basketball scholarship. The money is just NOT there…
Indeed, the coach and the athletic director at Eastside know this is the case. They’ve been to the home… They picked him up and dropped him off more than 20 times last year. They saw the sparse, well-worn second-hand furniture. They bought him some sneakers so he could play better and so he could fit in with his teammates. They know his father is deceased. They know his Mom is struggling…
They also know that Jamir had been having “beef” with some of the Eastside kids… There were multiple fights… There were several occasions where Jamir had unexplained lacerations on his face… There were other times where his hands were swollen around the knuckles… Jamir would never elaborate, but the other kids did…
“Coach, those boys from 53rd St. mess with him everyday…”
Things were looking up though… This past summer, Jamir linked up with two of his friends and they decided to play with an AAU club called Philly Thunder.
They had some really exciting moments… They beat a couple of the well-funded high profile shoe company sponsored teams. In one instance, Jamir had a follow-up dunk where his head literally hit the rim! Video of that dunk went viral, with over 300,000 views.
College coaches became increasingly intrigued… They started showing up at Philly Storm games… At first 1 or 2… As the summer went on, there were more each game… By the end of the summer 15-20 coaches were watching the Philly Storm games.
The attention and the success was new for Jamir. Weary of fighting his way into and out of Eastside High everyday, he had already decided to transfer. After playing with his friends in the summer he decided to join them at Hilltop.
Hilltop plays in the competitive B Division, whereas Eastside is in the lowly E Division. This is not insignificant… In search of a college scholarship, playing in a tougher decision appealed to Jamir. But more than anything, he didn’t want to fight anymore.
So… he transferred… He left Eastside and enrolled in Hilltop…
After reading the email from the Eastside coaches, the Hilltop athletic director, Smithson, responded with a mere two words…
With that, the Hilltop athletic director, the Eastside athletic director and the Eastside coach determined that they would deny Jamir a chance to compete and play varsity basketball at Hilltop.
They “agreed” that he transferred for “basketball reasons” and was therefore ineligible to play at Hilltop… These three suburban-dwelling, college educated white males, each making between $70,000 and $90,000, determined that they would collude to end Jamir’s high school basketball career.
“Fuck his scholarship!”
“We need to make an example of him, these kids cannot just change schools when they want. We need them to stay put and ensure that OUR team is competitive.”
One immediately wonders what Jamir’s father is gonna say… Then you remember his father was murdered 14 years ago.
Later that evening, the Hilltop athletic director and his wife sat down after dinner and reviewed the performance of their children’s college fund. Then they compared the academic performance of three area schools in preparation for exercising their right to choose the best educational settings for their family.