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12/09/2007 - From the Press Box SPECIAL COMMENTARY: Is Kastanek ruling right or proving a point??


Jeff Motz

Denied twice by the NSAA and now by Lancaster County District Court Judge Paul Merritt, Marissa Kastanek's parents' appeal and temporary injunction to have her play varsity basketball at Lincoln Southeast seems to be in absolute limbo. The 5-9 all-state player from Crete transferred to Southeast on October 29th, just two weeks before the start of practice. Several news stories in the Journal Star in recent weeks said the Kastaneks rented an apartment near Southeast, while keeping the family farm going near Crete. But the key component is the 90-day window to sit out.

So the question remains, is the NSAA trying to prove a point with all the transfers of high school basketball players each year? In my opinion, yes. Here's why.

First, the domicile says you need to sit out 90 days from varsity competition and reside in the school district. Most players that do transfer to other schools follow this rule and make the move either immediately after basketball season in March or after the end of the school year and sit out from Fall sports.

Second, there has been a hodgepodge of transfers around Lincoln and definitely in Omaha in recent years, making it look like it's some sort of trade deal between two NBA or WNBA teams. Now, before you send me a nasty e-mail on what you think of me for saying this, just consider what I said. I know it's not just basketball, it happens in other sports, too. But think about where this is going.

When I look back on my four-year high school basketball career that ended nearly 12 years ago, there were VERY FEW players that transferred from school to school to play basketball. The only ones I can think of were Paulo Vandenberg and Kelly Jurgens at Lincoln High and Ryan Shuman and Mike Kelley at Northeast. Vandenberg and Shuman were on the East High varsity as freshmen, before they transferred over to their respective schools the following year. Jurgens was at Class D-1 Diller-Odell and led them to a state title as a freshman, before moving back up to Lincoln. Kelley was at Lincoln High and made the move to Northeast halfway through his sophomore year.

I was teammates with Kelley and Shuman at Northeast and had played against Vandenberg and Jurgens in junior high and high school. I don't think they're considered to be the pioneers of transferring to a different school just to get more playing time or be with a winning program. But they all did that at the appropriate times and had their own undisclosed specific reasons for doing so.

Another old teammate of mine, Ben Tucker, transferred to Northeast after his sophomore year at Waverly. His parents owned a home in Lincoln, while they actually owned an acreage just outside of Waverly. Again, they followed the transfer rules.

NBA veteran Bart Kofoed started his high school basketball career at Omaha Creighton Prep, with a chance to play on a state championship team (1981), before transferring to Omaha Westside his sophomore season. That was in 1980 and he helped Westside to a runner-up finish against Millard South in the 1983 Class A title game. You're talking close to 30 years ago that stuff like that was happening, but it was still very rare.

After those examples, do you see where I'm going with this? It's unfortunate that a great talent like Kastanek, who's a North Carolina State recruit, can't play at the varsity level her junior season but can still play JV ball.

According to Clarence Mabin's article in the Lincoln Journal Star on December 8th, the lawsuit filed in Lancaster County District Court argues Kastanek's ability to play varsity basketball is “vital and indispensable to her maintaining a college scholarship offer and the college education which that scholarship will provide.” Judge Merritt ruled "the plaintiffs failed to present evidence clearly showing they would suffer 'immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage' if the restraining order were not issued before the temporary injunction hearing."

In no way I'm I saying that Kastanek should be denied from transferring to play basketball at Southeast, I just think if the move was going to be made, it should have been done at the appropriate time within the domicile guidelines.

If the NSAA transfer rules were to be amended to accomidate a situation like this, then it would be okay. For all you know, it could come down to something like that in the future.

Kastanek was on a state runner-up team at Crete last year, with a chance for the Cardinals to be back in the hunt this year. Crete appears to be off to a good start, but unfortunately it's without the help of Kastanek. I guess you could say the same thing about Southeast this year.  Personally, I think this is an unfortunate circumstance for a young lady like Marissa not to showcase her playing ability at the varsity level.  Maybe there could be "exceptions."


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