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Thomas Kithier admits defeat, withdraws lawsuit

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Thomas Kithier, center, behind his family's attorneys Ven Johnson, right, and Steve Fishman, left, outside the Federal Courthouse in Detroit last month.

It's game over for Thomas Kithier.

The high school basketball star and Michigan State recruit, benched for the season over his controversial transfer from Macomb Dakota to Clarkston, has withdrawn his lawsuit against the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

The decision came late Wednesday night, and was confirmed by his lawyers Thursday.

"We filed the lawsuit in order to attempt for me to overturn the MHSAA's unfortunate decision to rule me ineligible," Kithier said in a statement, released by his lawyers, Ven Johnson and Steve Fishman. "After that failed and after the MHSAA denied the appeal, they said that they would never let me play this year. I sat down with my attorneys and my family and strongly considered all of my options. The lawsuit was likely to go on for years and it would serve as a substantial distraction to me, especially in my first two years of attending Michigan State University and playing on the basketball team.

"I have decided to dismiss the lawsuit and do my best to move on with my life.

"I would like to thank my attorneys, Ven Johnson and Steve Fishman, my parents, Jane and Karel, for all that they did for me, as well as basketball fans all over our country who have emailed me, called me and texted me, wishing me well. I greatly appreciate your love and support. I look forward to graduating with my high school class this year and then attending Michigan State University in the fall."

Kithier, 18, drew national headlines for his fight to get back on the court.

After playing three years at Dakota, he decided over the summer to transfer to Clarkston, home of the defending Class A state champions. There, he was to unite with Foster Loyer, who, like Kithier, is signed to play at Michigan State next season.

But Dakota officials refused to sign the transfer waiver, claiming the move was athletically motivated, and the MHSAA agreed in an October ruling, making him ineligible for 180 days, or essentially his entire senior season. The MHSAA upheld the decision on appeal, leading to the lawsuit filed in late December, which named several MHSAA, Chippewa Valley Schools and Macomb Dakota officials as defendants.

Kithier's lawyers sought a preliminary injunction from federal court Judge Marianne O. Battani, in an effort to get him on the court for the start of second semester while the lawsuit played out. She denied the request in a Jan. 11 ruling.

While Kithier's lawyers said they would continue the lawsuit in order to fight for the rights of future student athletes, there was a change of heart.

"The kid wants to get on with his life," Fishman said. "And I don't blame him."

Kithier and his family insist the move was mostly academically motivated, saying Dakota didn't offer a math and media-production class that Clarkston did. His parents have said Kithier considered multiple other schools in the Metro Detroit area, as well as two high-profile prep schools out of state.

In the lawsuit, Kithier also claimed he was bullied and harassed by Dakota officials as he was contemplating a transfer, including by Dakota basketball coach Paul Tocco. Tocco has repeatedly declined to comment on the accusations.

A spokesman for the MHSAA declined comment Thursday night.

Clarkston is 12-1 following Tuesday's 70-39 victory over Hazel Park.