Canada's growing pipeline of basketball talent has been big news this summer, but it has some leaks.
Last year, CBC's The Fifth Estate aired a scathing report chronicling how Toronto-area coach Ro Russell misled several highly touted Canadian players about about enrolling at Christian Faith Center Academy, a North Carolina prep school (a euphemism for "scholarship factory"). The newest fallout from the rather sordid saga is that Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a highly touted guard, cannot practise or play this season at Florida State. So that's one fewer all-Canadian guard matchup this season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which already boasts Boston College sophomore Olivier Hanlan and Syracuse frosh Tyler Ennis.
From Jeff Borzello:
Sources tell CBSSports.com that the NCAA did not accept a full year of credits he took at a high school in North Carolina. Rathan-Mayes previously attended Christian Faith Center Academy (N.C.). Florida State is continuing to work with the NCAA to get the issue resolved. (CBS Sports)
The prospect of the untold millions that await a NBA lottery pick and NCAA Division I member schools prioritizing big-time sports over education are what makes Ro Russell, et al., able to thrive. There's no pretending that this was abnormal; it only seems extraordinary since we saw the video.
From Bret Strelow:
According to a 2012 episode of The Fifth Estate ... transplanted basketball players at [Christian Faith Center Academy] had little supervision from controversial Canadian AAU coach Ro Russell and spent little time on academic work. Rathan-Mayes' mother, Marilyn, said she sold her house in Canada and used the money to pay for her son's schooling.
"I felt him staying here in Canada was just not gonna get him to where he needed to go," she told host Bob McKeown around the 31:30 mark of this video.
"Was there a built-in study schedule?" McKeown asked Rathan-Mayes.
"No," Rathan-Mayes responded.
"Did anyone check on whether you were doing your homework or not?: McKeown asked.
"No," Rathan-Mayes answered.
"They were pretty much on their own," Rathan-Mayes' mother said.
"We were basically on our own," Rathan-Mayes added. "Yes, basketball was everything. That's all we did. School was there, but it was basically basketball, nothing else." (Fayetteville Observer)
Here is hoping this does not derail Rathan-Mayes' basketball career, although being unable to even practise at Florida State certainly is going to hurt.
In a glib way, the Russell fiasco might have been a good thing since it was a stark reminder to the elders in Canadian basketball to make sure corners aren't cut to the extent a player's future is jeopardized. Canada's emergence as a groomer of world-beating ballers is a tremendous success story, of course. There should be no diminishing the work or the people who have helped make this happen (and like it or not, Ro Russell is one among many). That doesn't mean swallowing the shadiness that lurks in the basketball industry in whole. It is worth noting the CIA Bounce program that has helped Rathan-Mayes provides players with a study hall and tutors. Talk about setting the bar. That's just come about too late to save Xavier Rathan-Mayes' frosh year at Florida State.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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