To fans of Hillcrest High’s varsity basketball team, its new star player must have seemed like a gift from above. As it was, Rashun Sidney Richardson had traveled an unusual path, to say the least, to become the Panthers’ leading scorer, considering that he transferred to the Texas school in October as a 17-year-old freshman who was a Hurricane Harvey refugee.
The newcomer’s story turned out to be much more odd — and disturbing — than that, however. According to police, who arrested him Friday on a felony charge of tampering with government records, the talented teenager was really a 25-year-old man named Sidney Gilstrap-Portley.
Making matters even more unsettling for Gilstrap-Portley’s fellow students and their parents, he is alleged to have dated a 14-year-old girl who also went to Hillcrest. “It’s unbelievable to me that he could get away with this,” said the girl’s mother, who spoke anonymously to the Dallas Morning News. “I don’t know what, how [the school] let this slip through the cracks.”
Gilstrap-Portley’s plan worked because he not only presented himself as a victim of the hurricane but also as being homeless with an absentee mother. That helped him get around some of the paperwork requirements and background checks that might have stopped him before he began roaming the halls with real teenagers.
“For him to take advantage of the Harvey situation and then the homeless laws and get himself in front of our students, it is frustrating,” Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told NBC DFW.
The scheme began to unravel in April, when a coach at North Mesquite High School, about a half-hour drive away from Hillcrest, saw Gilstrap-Portley playing at a tournament and recognized his former athlete. Gilstrap-Portley had graduated from that school in 2011, and there is evidence online that he played for Dallas Christian College during the 2013-14 season.
“He was a good kid,” another of Gilstrap-Portley’s coaches at North Mesquite told the Morning News. “I never had any problems out of him. That’s why I was shocked when I heard that all this came out, because that’s not the kid that I knew.”
That coach also described Gilstrap-Portley to NBC DFW as having been an “average player,” but, perhaps not surprisingly, he flourished among competitors as much as 10 years younger than him. The 6-foot-2 guard was voted by District 11-5A coaches as their offensive player of the year.
“He was a good player, but didn’t stick out as being completely head and shoulders above everyone else,” Hillcrest principal Chris Bayer said. “Other than him being a very quiet, reserved young man, polite.”
“Looking back on that now,” Bayer added, “it makes sense to me that maybe he was trying not to be noticed or bring attention to himself.”
Before transferring to Hillcrest in time for basketball season, Gilstrap-Portley first posed as “Rashun Richardson” at Dallas’s Skyline High, which had opened its doors to victims of Harvey. The hurricane’s devastation last August included much of the Houston area, and Gilstrap-Portley claimed to have been displaced by it, along with some relatives.
At Hillcrest basketball games, Gilstrap-Portley was occasionally seen cradling an infant girl in the company of a young woman, but they were assumed to be a sister and niece of his. It is now believed that she was his girlfriend and the mother of his child.
The mother of the 14-year-old classmate Gilstrap-Portley allegedly dated told the Morning News her daughter said she did not have a sexual relationship with him. The mother said she never approved of someone she thought was 17 dating her daughter and even addressed her concerns directly to him, and while she said he was “respectful” to her, he claimed he “didn’t see a problem” with the relationship.
“I’m upset, frustrated, angry and sad at the same time,” the mother said. “If it’s happening at Hillcrest, then it could be happening somewhere else. People need to know. It could have gone differently if he had other intentions to hurt her or to traffic her.”
Hinojosa addressed a narrative that emerged in the wake of Gilstrap-Portley’s arrest, in which he has been portrayed as an opportunist looking for one more shot at basketball glory. “No one should look at it that way,” the superintendent told the Morning News. “This is an adult infiltrating high school.
“People should take this seriously. No one should play it off like that. This is much more than that.”
Gilstrap-Portley was booked into Dallas County Jail and reportedly was released Monday on $1,500 bond.
Read more from The Post: