O’Connell still facing questions about age of former basketball player Junior Etou


The eligibility of former O’Connell forward Junior Etou (left) is once again a hot-button issue in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference after FIBA denied the Rutgers freshman’s application to play for the Congolese national team based on an age discrepancy. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference basketball season will get underway Tuesday when Gonzaga and O’Connell meet in Arlington. As O’Connell begins its defense of the WCAC title, the Knights are again facing questions surrounding the age and eligibility of Junior Etou, a forward on last year’s championship team and current freshman at Rutgers.

As reported by Deadspin on Nov. 25, FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, declared Etou ineligible to play for the Congo Republic’s senior national team in an Afrobasket tournament this past summer. In Etou’s application to play, he presented documents that state his birthdate as June 4, 1994, but FIBA has Etou initially registered in its records with a birthdate of June 4, 1992, which would have made him too old to play in the WCAC last season.

FIBA governance and legal affairs senior manager Benjamin Cohen confirmed this to The Post in an e-mail Monday, writing that FIBA was “not satisfied with the eligibility documents presented to us, as too many inconsistencies remained. We have therefore indicated that the player’s registration for the Congolese national team could not be accepted.”

WCAC rules state that a student who turns 19 before Sept. 1 of his or her senior year is ineligible to compete. Based on FIBA’s ruling, several WCAC coaches have called for the league to reopen an investigation into Etou’s eligibility and, therefore, the legitimacy of O’Connell’s championship.

“I’m disappointed that no one feels there is a need to look at why there are two sets of documents,” Paul VI Coach Glenn Farello said. “I understand that the documentation they have shows one story. Why no one seems to be interested in why there are two documents baffles me.”

WCAC Commissioner Jim Leary said there will be no further investigation and he remains satisfied with the documents presented to him by O’Connell when the allegations first surfaced in January.

“It’s not an issue as far as I’m concerned. I read the article. I can’t control what the coaches say,” Leary said in Sunday phone interview. “You can never say never, but am I going to hire an investigation firm to look into this further? The answer is no.”

First-year Good Counsel Coach Robert Churchwell, who played at Gonzaga in the late 1980s, said the league has an obligation to set the record straight.

“As one of the top basketball leagues in the country, I feel like we have an image, an integrity and a legitimacy to uphold,” Churchwell said. “If there’s something that’s defeating that purpose, something needs to be done about it.

“I don’t believe it takes much to know or understand that if someone has two sets of birth certificates, something has to be fishy or wrong,” Churchwell continued. “FIBA is recognized all over the world as a governing sports body, so I think there’s a lot of validity to what they are saying.”

When reached by phone Saturday, O’Connell Coach Joe Wootten declined to comment. Wootten has maintained the documents on file at the school stating Etou’s birth year as 1994 are valid and have been authorized by the Diocese of Arlington.

Etou has played in only two games for Rutgers this season and was suspended for the Scarlet Knights’ first six games by the NCAA for accepting impermissible benefits from a third party overseas in the fall of 2012, his senior season at O’Connell. Etou averaged 14.8 points and played in all 37 games for O’Connell, which won both the WCAC and Alhambra Invitational titles and finished atop The Post’s final boys’ basketball rankings.

Brandon Parker is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.
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