Eight days after being ruled ineligible for pre-enrollment contact, Salesian (Richmond, Calif.)
star forward Jabari Bird
was reinstated by North Coast Section Commissioner Gil Lemmon on Saturday.
According to Salesian coach Bill Mellis, Lemmon contacted Salesian Athletic Director Chad Nightingale just hours before the team's showdown with arch-rival St. Mary's at St. Mary's College in Moraga and delivered the good news.
Lemmon restored Bird's eligibility and the Pride responded with a resounding 79-50 Bay Shore Athletic League victory.
Bird, a 6-foot-5 wing, came off the bench to score 10 points. Freddie Tagaloa
had 15 points, Dominic Artis
13 and Mario Dunn
10 for the Pride, who erupted for 32 points in the second quarter.
"We were excited to play the game even before hearing the news," Mellis said. "When we found out Jabari was eligible we were that much more excited and I think our play reflected it.
"We're obviously happy that the commissioner got through the evidence in a timely fashion. At the same time we're still bothered by some of the confusing language in the forms and we're hoping somehow they can become clearer in the future."
Salesian is still trying to get back 16 losses it was forced to forfeit due to Bird's ineligibility. Mellis believes Lemmon ruled against gaining all 16 victories back, but that the Pride still has a chance to appeal those forfeits.
Salesian is officially 4-17, but 20-1 on the court.
Bird, who transferred from Benicia to Salesian in the summer, was ruled inelgible last week when Lemmon learned that the team's leading scorer and rebounder had played summer basketball with Salesian sophomore Dunn.
That violates the CIF's pre-enrollment contact policy and in paperwork filled out before the season by the Bird family and signed by Salesian officials, it wasn't disclosed.
Salesian claimed that it understood that conduct only applied if Bird spoke with adults (coaches, administrators, alumni) from the Richmond school. Bird and Dunn played on the high-profile Oakland Solidiers AAU team over the summer.
"As (Bird's father) told me, everyone knew his son and Dunn played together so obviously they weren't trying to hide anything," Mellis said. "The by-laws about that (new) stipulation (student contact) is extremely confusing and difficult to follow."
On Monday, Salesian sent a 9-page document to Lemmon, appealing his decision. According to Mellis, Lemmon spent the better part of three days dong an extensive investigation involving parents, players, administrators and coaches from Salesian and Benicia.
"He ruled there was no undue influence," Mellis said.
Salesian won three straight games without Bird, who practiced and traveled with the team throughout the ordeal.
"His emotions ran the gamut," Mellis said. "There were times he was extremely upbeat, then depressed, then angry and confused. He's just happy to be playing again."
Now if the Pride can get those forfeits overtime, all will pretty much be back to normal.
Salesian was ranked the top-ranked team in San Francisco Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle at the time of the forfeits. The Pride is ranked No. 9 in the state by MaxPreps.com. They are favored to represent Northern California in the CIF state Division IV finals.
Lemmon could not be reached for comment Saturday, but said Monday that the appeal process "was very much still alive."