Thursday, July 13, 2006

Is Dwaine Barnes Responsible for Bill Walker's Plight?

Is Dwaine Barnes Responsible for Bill Walker's Plight?
A fascinating column in The Cincinnati Post by Lonnie Wheeler suggests that Barnes, O.J. Mayo's legal guardian, schemed several years ago to reclassify Bill Walker so that he and Mayo would be in the same grade, therefore combining their tremendous basketball talents.
So Dwaine Barnes, the AAU coach, became their go-to guy in hoop decisions, which, in these cases, were life decisions. One of the first orders of business was to get the two wunderkinds in the same grade. We know now, through the OHSAA investigation which resulted in Walker being ruled ineligible for next year, that he and Mayo didn't start out as classmates. When Walker joined Mayo at Rose Hill in late 2002, he was placed in 9th grade. Mayo, already a local legend by then (Kentucky students may begin playing at the varsity level whenever they're ready), was tearing it up in 8th.

So it was that Walker left Rose Hill before the season was out and enrolled at North College Hill in February 2003 as an 8th grader. Mayo joined him the next fall, with Barnes as his legal guardian.

The plan included winning four Ohio championships, which was dashed when the Trojans were knocked out in the presumed freshman season of both superstars. Not so the following year, or the following. If Mayo stays at NCH, his third title will have to come without Walker's lofty assistance.

Wheeler says that three years ago, Walker was shopping for a school that would reclassify him as an 8th grader and this was openly discussed in a Kentucky prep forum.

It's pretty obvious now that, three-plus years ago, Walker was shopping for a school that would place him in the 8th grade. NCH officials did so on the basis of his transcript from St. Joseph Central Catholic in Huntington, which he attended for less than two months in the fall of 2002. Before it had received Walker's previous transcript - not an easy get, since the youngster had already started flitting between schools - St. Joseph classified him as an 8th grader.

Rose Hill did not, and there were newspaper accounts indicating as much. When Walker showed up at NCH in the second semester, a prep forum in Kentucky openly discussed his move back from 9th grade to 8th. Why were NCH officials unaware of such a clumsily kept secret? Why didn't they resolve the missing months?

This analysis fleshes out Monday's Cincinnati Enquirer story that Walker "was put back in the eighth grade upon transferring to North College Hill in February 2003." That story only mentioned Barnes in context that he did not return calls seeking comment.

Meantime, Michael McCann, the lawyer who told The Cincinnati Enquirer that Walker would have a legal case against the NBA if he thought he should be eligible for the 2007 NBA Draft, posted a blog arguing that Walker's best course of action would be to attempt to persuade the NBA that he has a case before pursuing litigation.

I am the lawyer referenced in Groeschen's article title, and while I do believe that Walker would have a strong case (as I discuss in the article), I would like to add the following proviso: if Walker were to pursue eligibility for the 2007 NBA Draft, his best initial approach would not be litigation with the NBA, but rather a concerted and constructive effort to discuss the matter with the NBA, and hopefully persuade the league to reconsider its thinking; litigation here, as in every dispute, should only be used if all reasonable attempts at negotiation fail. Moreover, being a litigant can be stressful and emotionally-draining, and that's especially true in a highly-publicized trial.

But as we also know, sometimes all reasonable efforts at negotiation do not succeed, and litigation is the only and correct option to right a wrong. Should that occur in this instance, I believe that Walker would have an extremely strong case.

No comments: