The state's governing body for high school sports is preparing to convene its Protest Committee as early as next week to determine the eligibility of the Paterson Eastside High School boys basketball team, NJ Advance Media has learned.
As Eastside's fate hangs in the balance, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association has produced two alternative brackets that have been distributed to teams in the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 bracket -- one with Eastside in the tournament and one without the Ghosts. Currently, Eastside, ranked No. 17 in the NJ.com statewide poll, is in line for the top seed in the bracket.
The (many!) unanswered questions in the Paterson hoops scandal
According to NJSIAA officials, Eastside's absence from the bracket would only affect one team -- Clifton High, which would move into the tournament as the No. 16 seed. Every other team in the bracket would move up one slot.
"NJSIAA is making every effort to verify and assess claims that may impact seeding and the integrity of tournament play," NJSIAA assistant director Larry White said in a statement released to NJ Advance Media. "At present, no decision has been made by either the school or NJSIAA regarding the team's participation. If necessary, the association is preparing to convene its Protest Committee to consider the various issues, provide the parties with due process, and make a determination as to next steps. That hearing could take place as early as next week, and will require proper notification of all parties."
The confusion regarding Eastside's status comes after NJ Advance Media published a report Monday detailing how six overseas players had been living with Eastside coach Juan Griles and claiming him and an assistant coach as their legal guardians.
Three of the players are from Puerto Rico and three others are originally from Nigeria, according to student profiles and sources within the school district. The state Division of Child Protection and Permanency is investigating the whereabouts and safety of the teenagers, how they arrived in Paterson and who has legal custody, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Since the report, Griles and the assistant coach, Alberto Maldonado, have been suspended and the NJSIAA launched an investigation.
White said the situation at Eastside could violate several state rules regarding recruiting, athletic advantage transfers and coaching protocol.
The Paterson school district announced that Shaniqua Bacote, an assistant coach on the team, will serve as acting head coach for the remainder of the season.
Matthew Stanmyre may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MattStanmyre. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
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