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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

CIF reverses decision, blocks Brendyn Taylor from playing basketball at Fairfax

It declares him ineligible after guard had played seven games following approval of hardship waiver for transfer. He misses crucial game against Westchester, which beat the Lions, 67-40.

January 13, 2011|Eric Sondheimer

Brendyn Taylor and Landon Drew aren't related by birth, but their similar experiences qualify them to be almost fraternal twins.

Each lives in Encino. Each has a father who played in the NBA. Each has an older brother who was an All-American guard in high school. And each beat the odds by successfully receiving a hardship waiver to gain eligibility as a junior this season after transferring to Los Angeles Fairfax.

"They hit snake eyes," one City Section administrator said about how rare it is for two future All-City guards to be declared eligible on the same team without having to change residences.

Well, the luck might have run out for Taylor. Fairfax Athletic Director Judi Edwards said she received a phone call Tuesday from City Section Commissioner Barbara Fiege, who informed her that the CIF had declared Taylor ineligible. Taylor had already played in seven games since a CIF appeals panel approved his eligibility in December after transferring from View Park Prep.

Edwards said Taylor can't practice or play for the Lions until further notice.

"It's a travesty," Taylor's father, Brian, said.

Taylor was forced to miss Thursday's crucial Western League game against Westchester, which beat the Lions, 67-40.

By reversing its own appeals panel, the CIF has added more uncertainty and questions to a process that has been drawing increasing criticism from parents and coaches.

Taylor had been denied eligibility by Fiege, then made a personal appearance before a three-person panel that voted 2-1 to overturn Fiege.

"He was miserable not being able to do what he loves to do," Brian Taylor said. "It was some rough months for our family. To have him play and do well academically, he's a happier kid."

Now Taylor is back wondering whether he will be able to play any more games this season. The Taylor family has hired an attorney and is waiting to learn the reason for the CIF intervention that could revolve around whether a rule was misapplied by the appeals panel.

The CIF is facing increasing challenges in the courts. Santa Ana Mater Dei is suing the Southern Section over allegations that it has received "unfair treatment" on eligibility decisions with its athletes. Next week, North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake senior Danilo Dragovic is scheduled to be in Los Angeles Superior Court trying to reverse a CIF decision making him ineligible after transferring from Santa Barbara San Marcos via Serbia.

All this and more adds to a perception about a lack of understanding of what is required to obtain a hardship waiver of the transfer rule. The appeals process was changed several years ago after the CIF felt pressure from state politicians threatening to pass their own laws. New rules that give power to commissioners to declare athletes ineligible if they transfer for sports reasons have added another dimension to the eligibility debate.

The arrival of Taylor and Drew at Fairfax has been closely watched because they come from basketball royalty.

Drew was a starter as a sophomore at Woodland Hills Taft. His brother, Larry Jr., was the City player of the year at Taft before heading to North Carolina. His father, Larry Sr., is the coach of the Atlanta Hawks.

Fiege granted him a hardship waiver but refuses to discuss the case, citing student privacy.

Taylor was a standout at View Park, where his father was the basketball coach and head of school before resigning. His brother, Bryce, played at Harvard-Westlake and Oregon and now plays in Germany.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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