East Lansing — While Clarkston deals with likely having to play this season without one of its best players, Michigan State watches from afar as a member of its 2018 recruiting class sits.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association on Thursday ruled that senior forward Thomas Kithier is ineligible for 180 days, effectively ruling him out the entire season at Clarkston.
How that affects the development of the 6-foot-8 forward is tough to gauge, but Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said on Saturday the Spartans program will do what it can to support Kithier, though Izzo remained optimistic something would happen that would allow Kithier to play this season.
“If that happens, which I just can’t see it happening, but if it does happen it’s gonna affect him some because he isn’t gonna play in any games,” Izzo said after Michigan State’s 88-63 victory over Southern Utah. “We’re gonna be able to call him and bring him up here and show him and go through our weight program so he can do that over there at the school. That’s one big key to him. He can work on his shooting. It’s not the end of the world, it’s just sad that they would put a kid through that.”
Kithier is part of a five-person class that includes Clarkston teammate Foster Loyer. That group signed on Nov. 8 and includes 6-foot-10 Marcus Bingham of Grand Rapids Catholic Central, the top-ranked player in the state. Also in the class are 6-8 forward Gabe Brown of Belleville and 6-5 guard Aaron Henry of Ben Davis High in Indianapolis.
The class ranked No. 8 in the nation according to 247Sports.com.
Kithier transferred to Clarkston for his senior season after playing his first three years at Macomb Dakota, which refused to sign off on the transfer, putting in motion a 90-day ineligible period that would’ve kept him out past Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Dakota then claimed his move was athletically motivated and, thus, not legal. MHSAA executive director John E. “Jack” Roberts agreed with Dakota in a decision that was handed down in October, which set in motion the 180-day ineligibility period. Clarkston then appealed to a five-person MHSAA executive committee, which met last week and announced its ruling Thursday. A majority vote by the executive committee is binding; vote totals aren’t made public.
Clarkston can appeal the Executive Committee decision to the MHSAA Representative Council, but that group is not scheduled to meet again until March.
“That’s kind of the last step in the appeal process, so right now we’re supporting the family in any way that we can and we’re exploring our options to see if we can get that Representative Council to meet sooner,” Mary Ellen Rowe, marketing director of Clarkston Community Schools, told The Detroit News. “That’s really all we can do right now.”
Kithier could enroll early at Michigan State, a practice that is more common among football recruits. It would likely be difficult, however, considering football players prepare for that possibility by taking courses the previous summer or an extra class in the fall.
Last season, Austin Wiley enrolled at Auburn in January and played the last half of the season, averaging 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Tigers in 22 games. He hasn’t played this season as he and teammate Danjel Purifoy remain sidelined indefinitely amid concerns about their eligibility stemming from the FBI investigation involving former associate head coach Chuck Person.