During a prep basketball game Tuesday night, player Makur Puou treated fans of a small boarding school in Batavia, Ill. to a few things they don't usually see: Dunking on opponents, and a victory.
Off the court, the status of Puou and three other players remains hazy as Mooseheart Child City & School fights for the eligibility of its star players, reports the Tribune.
While the players have energized the school's basketball program, according to CBS Chicago, the school is now accused of recruiting the boys specifically for their athletic skills, a violation of Illinois High School Association rules.
"Mooseheart did not recruit these students," Scott Hart, the school's executive director, said to NBC Chicago. "We never saw any YouTube videos or stats or game footage or anything. Here's what we knew about them: they came from a war-torn country and they need a safe place to grow up and a quality education."
According to the school's attorney, Peter Rush, the school has a history of bringing kids "from all over the world from unstable, even dangerous surroundings" to the boarding school, according to the Tribune.
The quartet of lanky, skilled young men from Sudan transferred to Mooseheart last year, arriving in mid-May 2011 on F-1 visas through the A-HOPE (African Hoop Opportunities Providing an Education) Foundation, according to the school's website. Per IHSA rules, the four were barred from competing interscholastically for 365 days following their admittance to Mooseheart.
The charge that prompted the investigation came from the coach at Hinckley Big Rock, a rival school, NBC reports.
IHSA initially issued its ineligibility ruling Nov. 29, less than a week before Hinkley and Mooseheart are scheduled to complete against one another. ABC Chicago reported the school filed a temporary restraining order against the IHSA Monday, alleging Mooseheart was being smeared by the association. The next day, the Tribune said Kane County Judge David Akemann ruled the boys could suit up for Mooseheart after all.
The IHSA board will meet next Monday in Bloomington to make a formal ruling on the boys' eligibility. For now, the boys will be able to play in games until the Dec. 10 ruling -- including Wednesday's game against Hinkley.