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Two Transfers to Westchester Are Ineligible

Panel rules Pruitt, Reese gave false information when switching schools. They are suspended from competition for one year.

November 07, 2002|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

Two top high school basketball players have been suspended from competition for one year because they provided false information in transferring to Westchester High, a City Section rules committee determined.

Gabriel Pruitt, a junior guard who transferred from Compton Centennial, and Ray Reese, a sophomore forward who transferred from Carson, were declared ineligible. The announcement was made Wednesday by City Section Commissioner Barbara Fiege, one day after the committee voted 7-0 (with one abstention) for the suspensions.

Westchester was not sanctioned, but Fiege said punitive action against the school and its basketball program might be discussed at a rules committee meeting Tuesday.

Wednesday's action was taken because a panel, specially convened to investigate allegations brought against Westchester, found that Pruitt and Reese had violated a rule in which a parent, guardian or student cannot provide false information regarding any aspect of a player's eligibility status, sources said.

Carson officials said Reese did not live at the address he provided after leaving his former school.

"I had faith in the system," Carson assistant principal Rosie Martinez said. "I would be surprised if we didn't get the ruling."

Allegations by Carson officials that Westchester Athletic Director Brian Henderson used undue influence and assistant coach Marlon Morton recruited Reese were not cited by the committee as reasons for Reese's ineligibility.

The players could challenge the ruling before a section appeals committee. Basketball practice for City schools begins Monday.

Kevin Yopp, an attorney for Reese, said there was "some bumbling of the paperwork at Westchester."

"Once the paperwork issues are straightened out, we are confident that Ray will be eligible," he added.

Pruitt's attorney declined comment. Pruitt initially lived in the Manual Arts district, but apparently used his only allowable inter-district transfer to go to Centennial, in the Compton Unified School District.

Westchester Coach Ed Azzam said he turns away dozens of transfers every year. Accepting transfers is difficult, he said, because of "this nonsense we have to go through."

"I told [Henderson], 'No more transfers,' " Azzam said. "It's a pain. It's very frustrating."

The school was placed on probation for one year in 2000 because former guard Hassan Adams, star of the Comets' state-champion team last season, played for Westchester in a summer tournament while still officially enrolled at Verbum Dei.

In 1998, the Narbonne girls' basketball team was banned from the playoffs for one year because three standout players, all reportedly from the same summer traveling team, used phony home addresses to gain admittance.

The Gauchos were also stripped of state and City Section titles won earlier that year.

In 1996, the Van Nuys girls' volleyball team was banned from postseason play for two years because a star player had fabricated her address.

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