Official high school basketball practice started on Monday, but Nick Aloi remains sidelined.
For a second time, the WPIAL’s Board of Directors ruled the former Ellwood City Lincoln High standout, who transferred to Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland last January, ineligible to compete for the Leopards until Jan. 21, 2015.
When Aloi transferred to Lincoln Park on Jan. 21, Ellwood principal Kirk Lape challenged the move. The case was brought in front of the WPIAL board and it ruled the transfer was made at least in part for athletic intent, which left him ineligible to compete for one calendar year from the move.
Lincoln Park appealed the ruling to the PIAA in hope to have the decision overturned and to have Aloi granted immediate basketball eligibility. However, at the Oct. 1 hearing at the PIAA headquarters in Mechanicsburg, the PIAA appeal panel voted to send the case back to the WPIAL for further review.
On Monday, once again, the WPIAL board voted unanimously to uphold its earlier decision, which left Aloi sidelined.
“I still stand behind the fact that I truly believe the transfer was for athletic intent, for Nick to play basketball. That’s why I did what I did as the principal of Ellwood City. That’s why I challenged the transfer,” Lape said. “The WPIAL has now twice said that they unanimously agree with our challenge. Let’s just hope the PIAA can look at the facts and make a decision next month, if it is appealed.”
Lincoln Park is expected to appeal to the ruling to the PIAA again. However, the earliest posted PIAA Board of Appeal meeting is Dec. 11. High school basketball games tip off Dec. 5-6. So Aloi will miss at least two games regardless of the appeal outcome. If the PIAA rules in his favor, he could suit up immediately and play in the team’s Dec. 12 tilt against New Brighton.
Aloi, a junior, averaged 17.3 points per game during his freshman season in 2012-13 with the Wolverines. He sustained a left knee injury playing AAU basketball in May 2013, and sat out the entire 2013-14 campaign. Considered one of the WPIAL’s top young players, Aloi returned to the court and played summer basketball. He is expected to be a key contributor for the Leopards, who lost NCAA Division-I recruit Maverick Rowan to a transfer. Rated as one of the country’s top junior prospects, Rowan moved to Florida in August with his family.
If the PIAA upholds the WPIAL’s ruling, Aloi may only appear in five section battles after Jan. 21, any nonsection games after that date and all of the Leopards’ postseason contests. This season, Lincoln Park, the reigning PIAA Class A champ, moved up to Class AA and into Section 1 with Laurel, Mohawk, Neshannock, New Brighton, Riverside, Shenango and Summit Academy. If the ruling is upheld, Aloi’s first section game is slated to take place Jan. 23 when Mohawk visits Lincoln Park.
In addition to Rowan’s loss, the Leopards likely will be without head coach Mark Javens due to an unspecified illness. According to multiple reports, Javens could miss the entire season while on medical leave. Lincoln Park athletic director Mike Bariski, a longtime assistant, will take over for Javens until he can return to the bench.