O’Connell, WCAC officials rebut report disputing eligibility of basketball standout Junior Etou


Junior Etou, right, blocks a shot during Bishop O’Connell’s 68-48 win over DeMatha on Jan. 11. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
January 22, 2013

Bishop O’Connell Coach Joe Wootten has rebutted a report published Monday questioning the age and eligibility of one of the school’s players, senior forward Junior Etou.

According to a Deadspin.com report, several Web sites overseen by FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, list Etou’s birthdate as June 4, 1992, which would make the Congo Republic native 20 years old and ineligible to play high school basketball under Washington Catholic Athletic Conference regulations. But Wootten said the school has legal documentation that confirms Etou is 18 years old and his birthdate is June 4, 1994.

“We have all the proper documentation, including Junior’s passport, that identify his birthday and current age of 18,” Wootten said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “We followed the process of filing all of the documents to the Diocese of Arlington, which we are a part of, and issued the student visa. All of this has been verified by Jim Leary, the WCAC commissioner.

“Clearly, we have all the legal documentation and you can put anything on a Web site that you want,” said Wootten, who became aware of discussion on local sports message boards disputing Etou’s age two weeks ago, “But the bottom line is we have all the legal documentation and we’re fully confident in that documentation.”

WCAC rules state that a student who turns 19 before Sept. 1 of his or her senior year is ineligible to compete. Leary confirmed Tuesday that he met with O’Connell President Katy Prebble late last week after receiving phone calls questioning Etou’s age. He was presented documentation by the O’Connell administration that verified Etou’s age and eligibility.

Host B.J. Koubaroulis runs through the top plays from high school basketball games in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC/The Washington Post)

“I have looked at the school’s documentation and have seen a copy of his passport, and I am comfortable that the June 1994 listed on the passport is his birthdate,” Leary said. “I had concerns based on rumors I heard a couple weeks ago, so I went out and addressed those concerns with the [O’Connell] president when my schedule allowed me last week.

“As far as I’m concerned, the case is closed unless someone produces a legal birth certificate that says otherwise.”

Multiple WCAC coaches said they were aware of the message board rumors regarding Etou’s age but declined to comment.

Etou’s full name is Luc Tselan Tsiene Etou. According to the Deadspin.com report and a FIBA Web site, Etou played for the Congo Republic national team in the 2009 FIBA Africa Championship in Libya. On that team roster, Etou’s birthdate is listed as “4 June 1992.” The same birthdate is listed under Etou’s name on Congo Republic’s roster that competed in the Africa U-18 Championship in May 2010 and on a Web site listing players involved in a 2010 Basketball Without Borders camp.

Etou transferred to O’Connell from Arlington Country Day (Fla.) last March. He lives with Monica Malone, the mother of Portland Trail Blazers guard Nolan Smith, in Upper Marlboro while his parents remain in Congo Republic. In a recent conversation, Wootten said Etou’s father told him that he is working to contact FIBA Africa and fix what they, along with Prebble, deem as an error concerning Etou’s birthdate.

Early Wednesday FIBA official Simon Wilkinson said according to the organization’s database, Etou’s birthdate is June 4, 1992. Wilkinson said before competitions, national federations supply the eligibility documentation for their players.

“He came to us through the channels of an international student, and we have the documentation that’s required and that tells us his age. That’s all we’re required to do as a school,” Prebble said Tuesday. “We have what we were supposed to do. It gets processed and as far as we’re concerned, he’s 18 because that’s the documentation.”

Prebble declined to show the document to a reporter citing privacy concerns.

O’Connell (15-3) is ranked No. 2 in The Washington Post rankings and No. 1 in Division I rankings for the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association. Along with the WCAC, the school competes as an independent school in VISAA’s annual postseason tournament. Reached Tuesday by phone, VISAA executive director Dick Kemper said he was not aware of the Deadspin.com report and subsequently, no investigation would be warranted at this point.

Etou scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the Knights’ 83-65 win at Good Counsel on Tuesday night. Wootten did not make him available to comment after the game.

Eric Detweiler contributed to this report. This story has been updated with comment from FIBA.

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