Officials at Macomb Dakota High School have declined all interview requests to discuss the controversial case of Clarkston basketball transfer Thomas Kithier, who late this week was ruled ineligible by the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
But Friday night, Chippewa Valley Schools — the umbrella district in which Dakota falls — released a statement defending their refusal to sign of on Kithier’s transfer waiver.
The four-paragraph statement calls Kithier “an outstanding athlete and an excellent student” who started at Chippewa Valley Schools when he was in kindergarten, but shoots back at the negative publicity it has received over the situation, which will cost Kithier his senior season of basketball before he heads off to play at Michigan State.
Kithier played three years at Dakota, but transferred to Clarkston for this school year. Dakota didn’t sign the waiver, and then claimed the transfer was athletically motivated. The MHSAA executive director, Jack Roberts, ruled in favor of Dakota, and an executive committee upheld his decision this week.
Here’s the full statement from Chippewa Valley Schools:
“As the largest comprehensive high school in the state, Dakota High School offers an outstanding educational program to more than 3,000 students each day. Our award-winning high school programs are well-known for being among the best in the state. Our students and staff continually win awards for excellence in academics, fine arts, and athletics at the county, state, and national level.
“As a member of the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA), Dakota High School is required to follow rules ensuring that every player meets the eligibility requirements set forth by the MHSAA.
“We are disheartened by the disparaging remarks being made against Chippewa Valley Schools in Clarkston media releases. While we understand Clarkston’s disappointment with the MHSAA’s ruling, we feel their negative characterization is unwarranted and unnecessary.
“Thomas Kithier began his career in Chippewa Valley Schools as a kindergarten student and, over the years, has participated in many of the award-winning programs and extracurricular opportunities we have to offer. He is an outstanding athlete and an excellent student. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Kithier, 18, a power forward, moved into a condo in Clarkston this past summer, ahead of his family’s move to the district. A Clarkston spokesperson said the family’s full move was delayed by the death of Kithier’s maternal grandmother in July. The family now lives together in the district, and their home in the Dakota district is for sale.
The MHSAA cited the seventh clause, specific to transfers, in its handbook in upholding Dakota’s complaint. The seventh clauses reads: “The student seeks to participate with teammates or coaches with whom he/she participated in non-school competition during the preceding 12 months.”
At Clarkston, Kithier was reunited with his long-time summer-ball partner Foster Loyer, who also is committed to Michigan State. There had been quotes in the media of Kithier talking about his desire to play with his long-time friend. Those quotes, it turns out, came back to haunt him.
Kithier has exhausted his appeal options through the MHSAA, said association spokesman John Johnson, and is ineligible to play for any school in the state, even if he wanted to, say, return to Dakota. It appears the prep-school route might be his lone option ahead of enrolling at Michigan State.
Dakota High School principal Paul Sibley and athletic director Mike Fusco did not return messages left for them by The News. Dakota’s varsity basketball coach, Paul Tocco, has repeatedly declined to comment publicly on the situation.
When the final ruling came down Thursday, Clarkston superintendent Rod Rock, basketball coach Dan Fife and the Kithier family issued statements, blasting the decision. Fife accused the MHSAA of “making an example of Thomas,” while the Kithier family said Thomas “is heartbroken to be denied the opportunity to participate in sports.”
In two of the last three state playoffs, defending Class A champion Clarkston eliminated Dakota — which in recent years has, itself, benefited from star transfers like Jermaine Jackson Jr. and Jack Ballantyne, both of whom now play at Detroit Mercy.
The Detroit News this week ranked Loyer the top player in the state, and Kithier No. 8. Clarkston was ranked the top team in the state.