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Mooseheart awaits the ruling this afternoon of a Kane County judge after the school sought an injunction against the IHSA's ruling last week stripping three South Sudanese students of their eligibility to compete for the Red Ramblers' boys basketball team.
Mooseheart was originally assured that transfer students Akim Nyang, Makur Puou and Mangisto Deng fulfilled their IHSA transfer requirements by sitting out last season, and the towering trio – Nyang stands 7-foot-1 tall, Puou is 6-10 and Deng is 6-7 – played in the Red Ramblers' first four games this season.
But IHSA executive director Marty Hickman informed the school late last week that, after an IHSA investigation, the three juniors are no longer eligible.
Attorney David Bressler argued on the IHSA's behalf Tuesday morning at a hearing in front of Kane County Judge David Akemann. Bressler was reluctant to discuss the case in depth as the IHSA and Mooseheart awaited Akemann's expected ruling at 3:30 p.m. today.
"The IHSA followed its handbook and its rules, and we hope the judge does the same," Bressler said.
Nyang, Puou and Deng arrived at Mooseheart through the African Hoop Opportunities Providing an Education program. Mooseheart contends that the boys were not brought to Mooseheart for their athletic prowess but rather to help them enhance their educations, and that the school is also open to admitting international students who are not athletes.
Hinckley-Big Rock reportedly requested that the IHSA conduct an investigation into the Mooseheart players' eligibility. Mooseheart and Hinckley-Big Rock are due to play Wednesday at H-BR, and the Red Ramblers also have a home game scheduled for tonight against Westminster Christian.
The trio most recently played in last week's home opener against Leland-Earlville, a 60-45 Ramblers win after which coach Ron Ahrens raved about the way the South Sudanese players have acclimated at Mooseheart, on and off the court.
The boys have said they hope to use their basketball prowess as a way to help attract scholarship offers from universities in the United States.
“Them being on the floor is extremely important to them, and it’s extremely important for us to have them on the floor because that helps them develop a lot of things that we believe in, good sportsmanship, handling adversity, all that kind of stuff,” Ahrens said. “It’s been great. They’re easy to coach.”