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Miguel Tomley: BCSS denies his appeal for 11th-hour eligibility

SURREY — Miguel Tomley, one of the most talented B.C. high school basketball players of his generation, has had his final appeal for eligibility for the remainder of the 2016-17 season denied by B.C. School Sports.

In an extraordinary meeting of the BCSS’ appeals committee late Friday, the Grade 11 guard’s appeal to return to his former team, Surrey’s Tamanawis Wildcats, for the remainder of a campaign now into playoffs, was denied based on the fact that the prep team he had left to play for at the start of the current campaign, Ontario’s Orangeville Prep, was deemed by the committee to be providing a sanctioned scholastic experience.

The eligibility portion of the BCSS handbook’s Section 3, D.2.1.1 states “an individual student-athlete is only eligible to compete in one (1) thirteen (13) week sanctioned season of play per sport in each school year.”

BCSS executive director Jordan Abney, while not a part of the appeals committee process, was willing to speak on behalf of their findings in the matter, as the case was the most high-profile in recent memory.

“The eligibility committee looked at it and determined that he was playing at a prep school with the word ‘scholastic’ in it,” said Abney. “So their intent was to differentiate club sport from school sport, and because there wasn’t a clear definition, they had to make a decision.

“The interpretation applied is that it was fundamentally different from a club experience,” he continued. “It was playing for a team representing a school in a league playing other schools. That was equivalent to playing high school basketball.”

Tomley, who had left Orangeville Prep at the start of the month to be with his mom, who had just given birth to a baby girl, was understandably disappointed.

“I was hopeful,” Tomley said to VarsityLetters.ca. “I thought they were going to let me play. It is what it is. They made their choice. A lot of other coaches were trying to help me out and tell B.C. School Sports about it, but at the same time, I know a lot of other coaches didn’t want me to play.”

Jordan Henry, a Canadian age-group national team point guard from Ontario, spent a semester at Thornlea Prep before he decided to return to his former high school (Pine Ridge) and was just ruled eligible by the OFSSA to play in that province’s high school provincial tournament.

Thornlea Prep plays in the same league as Orangeville Prep, something Tomley duly noted when he said “I even played against him out there.”

Abney was clear that the ruling regarding Tomley would be the same for any athlete, regardless of their talent and/or profile.

“What is often misunderstood is that the skill level (of the student-athlete) is never considered. In this case it’s a wonderfully-talented you man. But that has no impact on the decision. If you’re the 15th player or the No. 1 star, we apply the rules consistently.”

Abney added athletes are eligible for a return to play in 12 months from the date of transfer.

But he added that in this case, the circumstance’s of Tomley’s family “was very much considered” and that he would be eligible to play any other sport immediately, and basketball from the opening of next season.

Tomley said “Yeah” when asked if his plan was still to play basketball for Tamanawis next season.

Last season, as a Grade 10, Tomley led Tamanawis  the B.C. Quad-A championship final where they lost to powerhouse Kelowna.

The Wildcats were set to host Frank Hurt in a second round Fraser Valley playoff game on Friday evening.

“The development and advancement of these prep schools has been fast and something we have identified as an area where we need immediate policy development,” said Abney. “We need to clarify this situation moving forward and bring it to our members at the AGM in May.”

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