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Westchester Is Put on Probation Again

Athletic director barred from two boys' basketball games. Carson official says penalties are too lenient.

November 13, 2002|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

For the second time in two years, Westchester High was placed on athletic probation for one year because of violations committed by its boys' basketball team.

Westchester violated a California Interscholastic Federation rule preventing contact with a student before he enrolled at the school, a City Section rules committee found Tuesday. As part of the punishment, its athletic director is barred from attending the Comets' first two Western League games.

Westchester Athletic Director Brian Henderson admitted to the committee that he spoke with the father of former Carson player Ray Reese before Reese officially enrolled at Westchester, a violation of a CIF rule that forbids communication between athletic department members and a transfer student's parents before completion of the enrollment process.

The committee voted, 7-0, with one abstention, to put the Comets on probation.

"The evidence was clear," City Section Commissioner Barbara Fiege said.

The committee, however, did not find evidence Tuesday of recruiting or undue influence violations by Westchester, more serious transgressions that are typically difficult to prove.

Carson administrators said the penalties were not stiff enough.

Rosie Martinez, assistant principal at Carson, said banning the Comets from the playoffs "would have been the only way to send a clear, definitive message to everyone."

"I just hope that putting them on probation is something they're not going to chuckle at and continue to do things the way they've been done," Martinez said. "I sincerely hope that Westchester does abide by the rules and policies that we all have to live by."

In 2000, Westchester was placed on probation for one year 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 Los Angeles Verbum Dei.

Last week, the rules committee determined in a specially convened session that two players -- Reese and Gabriel Pruitt -- had provided false information in transferring to Westchester. Reese, a sophomore forward, and Pruitt, a junior guard from Compton Centennial, were suspended from athletic competition for one year because they had fabricated addresses. The players might challenge the ruling before a section appeals committee.

Last week's committee meeting was fueled by allegations from Carson administrators that Westchester committed multiple violations in the transfer of Reese, who last season distinguished himself as one of the best young forwards in the section.

Carson administrators said Reese's father, Ray Reese Sr., was coached by Henderson on how to get his son legally transferred to Westchester.

Reese was denied a transfer on three occasions -- twice by school officials and then by the district that has jurisdiction over Carson -- before his father filed for an official change of residence.

Carson challenged whether Reese resided at the given address, an allegation supported by a Westchester counselor who deemed Reese's claimed address to be unsatisfactory.

As further penalty, the committee told Westchester administrators to submit a written analysis on how to prevent future transgressions.

Henderson, who is also an assistant basketball coach, is banned from attending Westchester's league games on Dec. 9 at Los Angeles High and on Jan. 14 at Fairfax.

Westchester defeated Los Angeles High twice last season by a combined 78 points, and defeated Fairfax three times in four tension-filled games, including the City Section championship.

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