A-HOPE players ruled eligible to play at Illinois high school, but Illinois High School Association rules A-HOPE “took advantage” of players

The four Sudanese athletes who came to the U.S. through the A-HOPE whose eligibility was in jeopardy at Mooseheart High School in Illinois were ruled eligible to play Monday. However, the Illinois High School Association placed Mooseheart on probation and said that A-HOPE took advantage of the players, though the story doesn’t say exactly why it came to that conclusion about A-HOPE. The Associated Press story is linked here and pasted below.

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois High School Association ruled Monday that four Sudanese students can play sports, but placed their suburban Chicago high school on probation and said the foundation that brought the athletes to the U.S. took advantage of them.

The three basketball players and one cross-country runner, all juniors at Mooseheart High School in Batavia, had worried about the IHSA’s final decision and what it would mean for their dreams of obtaining college scholarships, earning degrees and returning home to help rebuild their war-torn country.

The IHSA, which governs the state’s interscholastic sports, got involved after the coach of a rival high school’s basketball team raised questions about A-HOPE, an Indiana-based foundation that paid for the four to come to the United States.

On Monday, the IHSA said the athletes are safe, but Mooseheart is ineligible to participate in the 2013 end-of-year state basketball series until it completes IHSA directives, which include reviewing and refining admissions processes to make sure those comply with IHSA rules.

IHSA officials said the school should be able to complete the tasks with enough time to participate in the series, which start in late February.

The IHSA also said A-HOPE took advantage of the students, and that any Illinois school that accepts referrals from A-HOPE or similar organizations, will be “presumptively ineligible.”

Messages left through A-HOPE’s website weren’t immediately returned Monday.

“These kids just want a chance,” IHSA board president Dan Klett said in a conference call with reporters. “Anybody who wants to give them a chance, they’re going to jump at it.”

The basketball players are 6-foot-7-inch Mangisto Deng, 6-feet-8-inch Makur Puou and 7-footer Akim Nyang. A fourth student Wal Khat, 6-foot-4, runs cross country.

A-HOPE, which stands for African Hoop Opportunities Providing an Education, is based in Bloomington, Ind. Its mission is helping “African student athletes studying in the U.S., but whose financial ability would otherwise make it impossible,” according to the nonprofit’s federal income tax forms.

The Sudanese athletes came to the U.S. on student visas, helped by A-HOPE. Many of the foundation’s students play on the founder’s AAU basketball team during the summer.

The Sudanese students came to Mooseheart after the school’s basketball coach reached out to A-HOPE. Mooseheart’s executive director Scott Hart has denied that anyone at the school was interested in the Sudanese students’ athletic abilities before they arrived.

Hart said Monday that the school is pleased the students can play sports and is “more than willing” to make the changes necessary to get off probation.

A-HOPE’s founder, Mark Adams, previously has drawn scrutiny. Last month, the NCAA suspended two Indiana University freshmen for nine games and required them to repay a part of the impermissible benefits they received from Adams, including plane tickets, meals, housing, a laptop computer, a cellphone and clothing. The NCAA said Adams was considered an Indiana University booster because he once donated $185 to the school’s Varsity Club.

The IHSA board met at the group’s Bloomington office Monday to hear Moosheart’s appeal of the IHSA executive director’s ruling that the four athletes were ineligible to compete because of a violation of the association’s bylaw prohibiting recruitment of students for athletic purposes.

Last week, a judge allowed the players to compete in one more basketball game pending the board’s decision. That game on Wednesday resulted in a 58-51 loss to Hinckley-Big Rock, the school that raised questions about A-HOPE.

The high school is part of Mooseheart Child City and School, a 1,000-acre residential center for children from troubled homes that is supported by the Loyal Order of Moose and the Women of the Moose.


  1. I have a question. After reading the IHSA release I see nothing specifically addressing how A=HOPE took advantage of these four students. Were they used to raise money? Were they exploited in some way? If so, specifically how? Was the school involved accomplice in taking advantage of them? How? Some specifics are required here Dustin. I would like to know exactly what the allegations are, the role of the foundation in ‘taking advantage’ pf these kids, the role Adams played in any possible exploitation…something. There is an undertone to the story but it is not clear what it is.

    What bothers the IHSA? Is it that these kids are from another country? Is it that they are African? Is it that they are needy? Is the IHSA responding to the allegations from a clouted school? Is is that the school they are attending is a school that accepts kids in dire circumstances? Bet your life there is a story here, I just question whether the story is about the kids, about the school, about A-HOPE, about Adams, about Illinois high school athletics or about influence peddling in the IHSA?

    Until something is clear, a good journalist should not drop this story.

  2. Yeah…doesn’t make sense. I’ve had questions about A-HOPE and Adams but, when you consider the reality these kids come from, it p_ss_s me off a completely useless agency like the IHSA would direct its energies to questioning anything that gives kids a chance.

    It seems to me that the story is in the IHSA and whatever is driving them. Maybe the word Africa? They’d find a lot more corruption looking internally. Good story here for any good journalist who wants to make a difference.

    The short answer, I don’t see where anyone took advantage of anyone else but, unless they want to clarify their statement, this is either a false allegation or a reporter’s misinterpretation. I did not see the quoted phrase anywhere in the release or AP story.

  3. Tsao,
    Just wanted to let you know I do agree with you completely here and I changed the wording at the top after I thought about it because I don’t understand exactly where they’re coming from there. We hadn’t had the original story on these players, but it was something a lot of people knew about and I was just making sure we had the update, but it does appear that there was a question the AP very much neglected to ask. But I’m leaving the sort of unfounded accusation in there in part because the IHSA made a seemingly unfounded accusation publicly, and I think deleting it would be protecting the IHSA even more than it would be protecting A-HOPE.

  4. To those of you complaining about the lack of clarification about what AHOPE did wrong here, the AP story says “the IHSA also said that A-HOPE took advantage of the students.” Few if any AP stories will contain editorialization of any kind; that quote should impart enough information to understand the IHSA’s verdict.

    On a more important note, it’s very disconcerting that this is how athletic governing bodies are treating these teenagers. “These kids just want a chance.” Is it so wrong that a non-profit organization provided them with the chance that otherwise may never have come??

  5. That quote imparts absolutely nothing. The quote itself is an editorialization withou8t any substantiation whatsoever. What is the specific allegation. From what this story read you could understand anything from economic misdeeds to much, much worse. Ap reports what they are told, in this case by the IHSA. Living in Chicago and being retired from a long career as an investigative journalist the quote from the IHSA is insufficient and nothing more than pitching c___p against the wall in the hope some of it sticks, a very routine event in ‘oversight’ agencies too lazy to do the work and made up of often pompous, self empowered, controlling individuals who can point fingers everywhere except the mirror. If there was something wrong, fine…then the IHSA has a moral responsibility to spell it out…otherwise their best strategy would have been to keep their mouth shut. And, if need be, the AP needs to get the clarification for the reader to understand what the IHSA mouthpiece is saying here. Fairness to those kids requires that.

    Nevertheless, when I read your second graph you seem to argue (or believe) exactly the opposite of your intent in the first paragraph. The AP does not need defense, they need clarity.

  6. DD-I agree with you and it does seem to be a confusing statement made in a very frivolous manner. It does irritate me that the AP reporter failed to get further comment on a very significant and accusatory phrase (saying this without any thought about A-HOPE or Adams, both of whom have raised questions with me). The one thing I am sure, the four Sudanese kids should not be further victimized and that should be all our concern.

    I really did not think you did anything wrong. I do think perhaps this should be pursued since the IHSA it obviously misled you with the incomplete information. What was the basis for their now apparently irresponsible accusation?

  7. Teedee- As I reread your post, perhaps I see you had the same concern about the IHSA lack of clarity as I did. (Unless the problem lies with the incomlete reporting by the AP). Don’t let it surprise you about the IHSA….Salomon’s Court they ain’t. They’d split the baby and look for a grill.

  8. Following is a partial transcript of a story to run in the Chicago Tribune in which IHSA and Board President Dan Klett blames A-HOPE for the recruitment of the four Sudanese refugees.

    “…When asked what he would say to any other school who might use AHOPE to find basketball players, Klett said, “Don’t. We don’t believe they are a quality organization,” [accusing]… AHOPE [of using] the students as pawns, and…Mooseheart [the residential school for kids from troubled backgrounds] didn’t do enough to make sure they were complying with IHSA rules…[that] prohibit athletic recruitment,” said the Tribune.

    It seems, however, that the IHSA was trying to rescue IHSA Director’s Marty Hickman who had originally suspended the four Sudanes kids and had been hauled into court by Mooseheart, a 99-year-old residential and educational institution for children from unstable environments, including refugees. Mooseheart disputed Hickman’s decision in court and won the decision in Kane County Court from Judge David Akemann.

    Lawyers for the “child city” argued that Mooseheart accepted Sudanese children regardless of their athletic prowess, sight unseen. Most important, however, the lawyers against the IHSA established the four boys in question had arrived in May 2011, they were not recent ‘discoveries’ and then waited a full year — at the IHSA’s direction — before allowing the teens to compete in any sports.

    The IHSA countered by arguing that A-HOPE, which had placed the four boys at Mooseheart, works with athletes exclusively and that basketball coach Ron Ahrens deliberately called A-Hope searching for basketball players.

    The judge found against the IHSA and in favor of the four Sudanese boys, restoring their eligibility to compete. The IHSA still suspended the school, Mooseheart, however from participating in the 2013 Illinois state tournament unless it shows it has taken actions to avoid violating IHSA recruitment rules.

    IHSA director Marty Hickman was later quoted as saying: “Ba humbug!”, as he welcomed the Christmas season. The rest of the IHSA board sneaked out-of-town and would not comment.

  9. The story missed the part about the 7’er wearing a Indiana shirt during the interview.

    Is this a spreading of the ncaa mentality?

    Again we go back to the kids in the story who know this may be their only hope for a productive life. If they had lost the case, they would be heading home with no idea of “what just happened..?”

    Not a parking sticker in sight but the same over-kill.

  10. I love how every reference to the Perea/Jurkin situation fails to mention that Adams was THEIR LEGAL GUARDIAN. It ALWAYS just says “they got meals, plane tix, housing, etc”.

    I’m not sure I’ve seen more than 1 or two stories that present all the facts.

  11. “using students as pawns…”.

    It’s clear that none of these 3 basketball players is going to be suiting up for IU, but this story outrages me just as much as the Perea/Jurkin one.

    To what end is A-HOPE using them?

    What is A-HOPE’s gain?

    Does A-HOPE gain more than the students do?

    I could be wrong, but from what I can tell Adams is dumping his personal savings into this organization on an annual basis. I certainly don’t think he is profiting from it.

    IHSA = more bureaucrats with ZERO perspective… Glad the judge had some.

  12. Hey Dustin…any chance of an story on A-Hope. The organization, where and how they get the $ to operate. I know nothing about A-Hope, but they appear to have the kids best interest in mind.

    My small town in SW Florida, 10 yrs ago had one of these “prep schools” with kids from Africa and S America. Two of the kids ended up at Memphis and did well. The local school it-self was always in the local news. Failing inspections and such. The administrator, had his team playing the national schedule and was doing pretty good. Trips were supported by donations which was a problem. School closed when the program director was found to falsify schhol documents and lost state license.
    One of the board members was a shoe company employee?

  13. “…When asked what he would say to any other school who might use AHOPE to find basketball players, Klett said, “Don’t. We don’t believe they are a quality organization,” [accusing]… AHOPE [of using] the students as pawns….” What BS

    One of the many things that bothers me about the press and scrutiny that Mark Woods and A-HOPE is going through is that few if any stories mention the quality of the kids from a basketball viewpoint. Many who are not IU fans are led to believe that he is bringing 5 star studs to feed his summer team and then they are funnelled to IU. Why don’t they do their job and report on how the students have performed on Mark’s AAU team – studs or raw talents who have a long ways to go and then what colleges they go to and how they perform at those schoo;s in college.

    TsaoTsuG, are youi a little bored in retirement, with winter coming on in Chicago why don’t you put your investigative reporter talents to use and get some answers for us.

  14. Aruss… Are you insinuating that the NCAA asked the IHSA to sanction these kids and Moosehead in an attempt to bolster their own suspension of IU players?

    I would love it if that were true because the resulting scandal would crush the current version of this “institution” and force either a complete overhaul and re-structuring, or it would cause a re-examining by BCS schools of their need to be members of the organization, potentially going off on their own.

    As interesting as that would be, I don’t think there is anything suspicious or nefarious about the timing of the story.

  15. Coach Jon Fabris strikes again. Native of Flowery Branch, Georgia OLB Kristopher Smith, 6’4″ 205, is 17th commit to IU.

  16. Geoff – no, I’m saying Dustin posting this “news” is suspect. We just had a huge football signing yesterday of a linebacker from Georgia but this is what is posted to the scoop.

  17. Well, the timing and the A-HOPE ties are the only thing that make this a story for this blog. I don’t see it as curious… It’s basketball season. Probably 80% of your readership is most concerned with basketball. The fan base is still obviously sore over the NCAA ruling. A-HOPE is right in Dustin’s back yard.

    I see it as a story.

    I think Clarion’s post #19 about covers the other story…

  18. Instate paper the Oklahoman is suggesting Seth Littrell could be 1 of 6 possible candidates contacted by Coach Gundt to interview to be OSU’s next OC. Todd Monken made $600k last year as OSU’s OC. Littrell is a native Sooner.

  19. A couple of things to address.
    1. To Caleb Moore, Adams was Perea’s legal guardian but not Jurkin’s, and that was addressed in our stories.
    2. Ron, I do want to do a bigger story on A-HOPE and I’ve been in discussion with Mark Adams about setting something up. I don’t want to make any promises, because I feel like every time I post on here that I’m going to do something I fail to come through, but yes, that’s something I want to do.
    3. Aruss, I just posted the Georgia commit story and just missed that last night. Not something I deliberately ignored, I just made the mistake of not checking Twitter after 10 p.m. So that’s on me and is an entirely separate issue from this story. And I obviously didn’t invent the Illinois A-HOPE story. I didn’t even write it. Other people on here were obviously following it and I didn’t think it was a good idea to ignore what the AP was putting out. It came out last night so I posted it last night.

  20. Plankton, not bored at all…with my son home from five rotations and my 4 and 2 year old grandchildren around and the tons of reading and writing on other matters I do and IU to satisfy my need for passion, not bore at all.

    However, do let me tell you how it works. The story (from a newspaper’s point of view) here is the possibility that four kids from Africa now in Illinois are being recruited by a somewhat opaque and mysterious organization (AHOPE) that also involves them in the ‘coach’s summer AAU team.They (newspapers) like the possible exploitation angle, and the involvement of schools that rival Illinois in the B1G but in a very perfunctory way.

    All truth be told, I have asked the question on guardianship several times and keep getting this not too clear answer and (as a former journalist) it does raise questions. Don’t forget that the issue of human trafficking is a huge issue these days and though this doesn’t even come close it does raise a few ‘yellow’ flags since most believe corruption is rampant in the world of recruiting and basketball in general.

    I could be overstating it; but, were I still and editor, I’d assign the story to see what’s there.

  21. On the other hand, (and someone correct me if I’m wrong), if Adams does in fact have legal guardianship over Mosquera Perea whatever he spends on Hanner is none of the d_____d business. Adams would then have a legal parental obligation to satisfy Perea’s needs, including his travels and incidental expenditures. On Jurkins, it would be somewhat limited because of NCAA restrictions.

    Adams, in some senses, brought the problem on himself. And, IU didn’t help. Anytime a story comes out a drop at a time like the entire A-HOPE saga unfolded journalists will notice. I’ve always believed, either let it all out or say absolutely nothing, not one single word. But the story came out with a little squeeze here, a little garbled answer by Crean there, a surprise over a $185 30-year old contribution, summer AAU competition with Adams, the job for young Adams at IU, leaving for new horizons at New Mexico…you get my point…nothing is bad and everything is mysterious. Whoever the journalist is that can ignore it just isn’t doing his/her job. DD did as well at opening it up and not going off the cliff as anyone would, but I’ll bet he had the same misgivings I’m voicing.

    A word …Crean was not always forthcoming with information and IU seemed to be operating two curves behind all the way. Either come out with it or post guards on all the approaches to the Athletic Office complex but mid-ways will get you hung and people love to attend hangings.

  22. Bunch of people on here that just like to argue. You have to be able to analyze here a little. A-hope takes advantage of them by bringing in athletic kids who then get shuffled off to the AAU team which is what makes Adams. Is it all alturistic? Heck no, but does it help the kids, YES! Is there cheating going on, NO! So ISHA and the NCAA can go suck lemons as far as I am concerned.

  23. IUJack – I’m still curious how the kids are “taken advantage of” by A-HOPE… That is really damning statement the IHSA threw out there, and it should be backed up or investigated. It’s irresponsible not to follow up, but then include that statement.

    How does having kids on an AAU team in another state have anything to do with IHSA? How does having 3 athletic and tall African kids who clearly aren’t great basketball players help Adam’s clean up on the AAU circuit? How were these kids taken advantage of?

    Are a couple of these players relevant in the Indiana Elite program each year? Sure, but not all of them. I’m pretty sure the kids making Indiana Elite one of the top programs in the country are the native Hoosiers like Cody and Yogi and Buss and Hollowell.

    What is an “average” upbringing like in Kenya? I honestly don’t know, but let’s just say it isn’t as good as the average upbringing in Indiana. How does a US private school education compare to that of one in the Sudan? I’m going to go out on a limb and say its better. What are the sprospects for a 16 yr old boy in Nigeria? Are they better than the likelihood of getting an international education and leadership training at an Amercian university? Doubt it… Are these kids more likely to have great earning potential growing up only in , or after receiving the benefits of A-HOPE and an American experience?

    These don’t seem like questions anyone would have to ponder intensely…

    Still waiting for some evidence that these kids are taken advantage of.

  24. I am with Geoff, as to how these student/athletes are taken advantage of. I suppose if the legal guardian asks his ward to take trash out once a week could be considered sinister by opponents. The establishment and administration of an A-HOPE endeavor is a significant personal undertaking. It is a good deed that should be applauded.

  25. Seems like an all out effort to run down the A-HOPE program but it does not make a lot of sense.

    I have questions. Why is IHSA not taking significant action to protect these student/athletes from being taken advantage of? And why is A-HOPE not fighting back? Someone accuses you of taking advantage of the kids you are supposedly helping should result in a defamation lawsuit.

  26. Just taking a guess, but I’m thinking A-Hope is a small operation w/out the $$ or the knowledge of how to fight back.? If you were rolling in the big bucks, you’d hire a public relations company to counter the bad publicity or show the nice warm fuzzy side of the business.

    But like you say, all the complaints are nebulous with no foundation

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