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Nike Prep Tournament Under Investigation by CIF

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The California Interscholastic Federation began an investigation Tuesday to determine whether eight of the state’s top basketball players violated a rule by participating in an all-star tournament sponsored by the Nike shoe company earlier this month.

The invitation-only tournament, held at the company’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., Sept. 10-12, showcased 37 of the best high school players in the nation, including Mater Dei’s Miles Simon. Other states’ high school associations are also investigating for possible violations.

The CIF, which governs California high school sports, allows athletes to participate in all-star competition only from the end of the season in question until Sept. 1.

The other California players who participated were Toby Bailey of Los Angeles Loyola, Cameron Murray of Glendora, Schea Cotton and Jelani Gardner of Bellflower St. John Bosco, Rick Price of Gardena Serra, Tim Young of Santa Cruz Harbor and J.R. Henderson of Bakersfield East.

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All are seniors except Cotton, who is a freshman. They are also among the state’s most recruited players. Henderson and Bailey have already made oral commitments to UCLA, Murray to USC and Young to Stanford.

Thomas Byrnes, commissioner of the CIF, said he was not prepared to make a ruling Tuesday.

“If there are any violations that we can rule on, the only one I can see now is that this event was held after Sept. 1,” Byrnes said. “We must then determine whether this event was considered an all-star competition.”

Byrnes will present any findings to the CIF Executive Committee, which would determine any punishments, including a loss of eligibility.

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The selected players received free air fare, lodging and meals. They also got an estimated $500 worth of free equipment and were given $100 gift certificates to use in the company’s store. Additional merchandise was made available at a special low rate.

Byrnes said the free equipment and gift certificates were not CIF violations.

However, “If a coach was involved, then we’ve got a problem. You’re looking at a major violation,” said Southern Section Commissioner Stan Thomas.

Gary McKnight, athletic director and basketball coach at Mater Dei, doesn’t believe any violations occurred.

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“I know for a fact that Nike talked to the CIF. I was asked to coach (at the camp), but couldn’t do it (because Simon was attending the camp and that would violate a CIF Southern Section rule),” said McKnight. “My kids (Mater Dei players) have gone to other camps and been given L.A. Gear stuff. They give them shoes and T-shirts all the time.”

McKnight’s Mater Dei players wear Nike shoes and have for years.

Times staff writer Elliott Teaford contributed to this story.


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