Junior Etou’s eligibility at O’Connell remains divisive issue for FIBA, WCAC

The Bishop O’Connell boys’ basketball team concluded its 2012-13 season by winning the Alhambra Catholic Invitational on Saturday in Frostburg, Md., capping a campaign that included a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament championship and bringing to a close the tumultuous senior season of forward Junior Etou.

Since a Jan. 22 Deadspin.com report, Etou’s age and eligibility have been the subject of controversy. While the WCAC was satisfied with the Congo Republic native’s eligitibility status throughout, rival coaches have had enough doubts that Etou was not named to any of the four all-WCAC teams, despite averaging 14.8 points and playing a critical role on the defensive end.

FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, which lists Etou’s birthdate as June 4, 1992 (which would have made him too old to compete in the WCAC this season), recently acknowledged that it received official documentation from Etou’s father, showing Etou’s birthdate as two years later. But because FIBA and FIBA Africa do not oversee high school competition, FIBA governance and legal affairs senior manager Benjamin Cohen said the organization saw no need to take an official stance at this point.

“Based on the new documents we received from civil authorities and the Basketball Federation of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Etou was born in 1994,” Cohen said in a Friday phone interview. “But since I’m not personally convinced, I’m not compelled to change the date in his database until we would need to register him for future FIBA competition. At that point, should we be asked to register his birthdate as June 4, 1994, then we would be in the position to open an investigation.”

Throughout the season, WCAC Commissioner Jim Leary has maintained that the legal documents provided by O’Connell to the league are valid, allowing Etou to compete in all 37 O’Connell games.

“The WCAC commissioner viewed Junior’s documents and found everything in order and ruled him eligible,” O’Connell Coach Joe Wootten said. “The Diocese of Arlington also found everything in order and any attempt to keep this story alive is defaming a bright young man. This is a dead issue.”

The controversy came to a head during the league’s annual coaches’ meeting on Feb. 16.

While discussing league matters, Paul VI Coach Glenn Farello asked Wootten for clarification on Etou’s background. WCAC rules state that a student who turns 19 before Sept. 1 of his or her senior year is ineligible to compete.

“Why are there two sets of documents? That was my question,” Farello recalled in a phone interview. “The parents should be able to produce their documents and also get the documention from FIBA, and then both should be provided back to O’Connell and the WCAC to explain why there are two. The fact that there two sets of documents means that one is fradulent.”

As more coaches chimed in during the meeting, Wootten maintained that O’Connell possessed the necessary documents verifying Etou’s age as 18. After about 45 minutes of discussion, Farello said the coaches elected to drop the matter and move to the next order of business.

During a Feb. 1 interview at O’Connell, Etou showed a Post reporter his passport and visa as well as copies of his birth certificate, student visa and ninth-grade transcript. The passport was issued on July 22, 2010 and the visa has an issue date of Nov. 12, 2010. The student visa was approved on Nov. 17, 2010 in Florida, where Etou enrolled at Arlington Country Day.

 
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