GROVETOWN, Ga. (WJBF) – Parents of one Columbia County student who planned on seeing their son play high school basketball his senior year saw those dreams shattered after the Georgia High School Association ruled he was ineligible to play. Both his school and family say the issue came down to scheduling during the coronavirus pandemic and nothing the student did.
When asked, Marlo Gant could immediately describe his son as an athlete.
“6’7 frame. Great rebounder. Block shots. Average about 10-15 points a game,” he explained.
Jadis Gant, who goes by Jaye, is a senior at Grovetown High School. And not only does he excel in the classroom with a “B” average, he is a standout on the Warrior’s basketball team. AugBball’s Chad Cook, a sports guru for more than 35 years in the CSRA, told NewsChannel 6 he’s seen Gant’s moves.
“I first came across [Jaye Gant] during his junior season last year. Very good player. He’s already been offered a college scholarship by Voorhees College and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more coming his way,” Cook said adding that he’s pretty much Grovetown’s number three man on the court of five.
Gant’s father, Marlo Gant, told us his son has a few college offers in Delaware and other states too. And those higher education dollars are connected to what he does on the court this season. While he played during the start of basketball season, Georgia High School Association, the organization that regulates athletics statewide, labeled Gant ineligible this month.
“Supposedly the counselor didn’t know he played basketball at the time and gave him four classes instead of five classes in the first semester,” his father said of the situation.
According the the GHSA’s Constitution and By Laws, the Certification of Eligibility based on a student’s scholastic standing reads, ‘A student is required to pass classes that carry at least 2.5 Units counting toward graduation the semester immediately preceding participation.’
Gant had 4 classes worth about .5 units each. The GHSA Initial Eligibility Report for Basketball was due October 26, 2020. NewsChannel 6 has not gained access to that report, but based on the fact that Gant played as the start of the season through December 20, he no doubt was on that eligibility report. It is unclear at this point how GHSA learned of Gant’s actual credits and who exactly reported the information locally.
Grovetown High School administration admitted its mistake and submitted a hardship application to waive Gant’s academic eligibility. It lays out his scholastic pathway, which started at Thomson High School freshman and sophomore years. After completing his junior year at Grovetown, Gant earned 21.5 credits. Principal Craig Baker wrote a letter for the hardship application stating he’s on track for graduation without a full schedule, something the district allows to alleviate overcrowding.
And a letter from the counselor is included too, agreeing Gant can indeed graduate in May with just four classes. She noted the “challenge of navigating through the pandemic trying to meet the needs of all students” who are Learning from Home and Face to Face while admitting a scheduling error. School Counselor Karen McCord wrote the athletic eligibility was overlooked when Gant transitioned to Learn From Home. That explanation didn’t regain Gant access back to the basketball court and this past week GHSA denied the school’s appeal.
NewsChannel 6 also reached out to Gant’s coach, Darren Douglas, who stated he was heartbroken, but could not speak further on the matter due to BOE restrictions.
“They’re blocking my kid at succeeding at something he loves to do,” Gant explained.
We spoke with Superintendent Dr. Sandra Carraway who called the situation disheartening and said school officials are making every effort to act in the interest of the student. Athletic Director Martin Jackson, off camera, said everybody knows about the academic requirements. He too pointed us in the direction of the BOE for further comment. But a letter from Gant’s mother, Lakenya Lazenby who is also a nurse, said she did not know about the requirement and her concerns are her son’s grades, graduation and mitigating his COVID-19 risk.
“It’s a lot of kids that go to this school. Like 2,000 kids that go to this school. He seen it was crowded and the hallways were crowded so he was like mom, dad, I want to go to at home learning,” Gant said adding that as long as he kept his grades up and stayed out of trouble, he could learn from home. Jaye Gant is carrying a GPA of more than 83 and Principal Baker stated in his hardship letter that he has no disciplinary issues.
Cook, who has been shining a light on Gant’s situation and other students impacted by GHSA decisions, weighed in on the fairness of it all.
“If the GHSA had a name and a face and that person could sit down with Jaye Gant and Marlo Gant or anybody, I think they would all agree that this would be the proper course to take,” he said. “To call it an honest mistake that has no victims.”
After we spoke with Marlo Gant, he said he has retained a lawyer to help fight this case. He also has a Change.org petition here.
A spokesperson for the GHSA said the school has until Tuesday to appeal. The Athletic Director said they already have done so and Gant tells us that hearing is February 9.
We will continue to follow this story.