St. Patrick banned from state tourney

New Jersey will have a new Tournament of Champions boys' basketball winner this season.

Defending champion St. Patrick of Elizabeth, N.J., which has won three of the last four titles, has been banned from competing in this season's state tournament.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association's executive committee voted unanimously Friday to support the recommendation of its Controversies Committee to ban the No. 6 ranked team in the FAB 50 and suspend coach Kevin Boyle for three games for being present during workouts prior to the official start of the season.

St. Patrick was scheduled to play FAB 50 No. 7 Oak Hill Academy of Mouth of Wilson, Va., Friday night. Boyle was expected to coach the team, St. Patrick attorney Kevin Marino told the Newark Star-Ledger newspaper. Seeding for the state tournament was scheduled earlier on Friday.

With St. Patrick absent from the TOC, the top-ranked FAB 50 New Jersey teams would be No. 3 Paterson Catholic and No. 23 St. Anthony of Jersey City.

The workouts, held for the benefit of college coaches, were secretly videotaped by an investigator from the NJSIAA, who was originally looking for alleged recruiting violations. No violations were uncovered.

An appeal by St. Patrick that the NJSIAA trespassed, invaded privacy and didn't notify the school that it was under investigation was denied by the NJSIAA Executive Committee.

Boyle admitted he violated out-of-season coaching rules at a Jan. 26 hearing before the Controveries Committee.

According to meeting transcripts obtained by the Star-Ledger, Boyle said, "I misinterpreted the rule and didn't check on it. I was definitely wrong."

The NJSIAA rules state that coaches are not allowded to run -- or be present for -- workouts until the start of the winter season, which was Nov. 27, 2009 for this current season.

The investigation began when the NJSIAA received a telephone call from former NBA player Chris Washburn Sr., who expressed concern over the transfer of his two sons, Julian and Christopher, to the school. Washburn's wife, Michelle Washburn, and her sons moved to New Jersey last summer after visiting St. Patrick and nearby Seton Hall University, according to the transcripts.

Chris Washburnm, who is separated from his wife, questioned how she could afford the relocation and send the sons to a private school.

The transcripts revealed Mrs. Washburn paid $1,000 as a deposit to St. Patrick. However, when she didn't pay the remaining enrollment tuition, her sons transferred back to Duncanville High in Texas, where they attended last school year.

Another Heart Breaker for St. Pat's

Hours after the news came down of its ban from the New Jersey state playoffs by the NJSIAA, St. Patrick took the court against famed Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) at the Primetime Shootout in Trenton, N.J in the final game of ESPN's Old Spice High School Showcase for the 2009-10 season.

St. Pat's, ranked No. 6 in the ESPN RISE FAB 50, could not slow down the hot-shooting Warriors, who pulled out the 79-78 victory after junior Derrick Gordon missed two free throws with under a second remaining with St. Patrick
(18-3) trialing by a point. Oak Hill (25-2) had taken the final lead of the game when Doron Lamb made one of two free throws with nine seconds remaining and the score tied at 78 all.

The game's outcome meant St. Patrick had lost its third one-point game of the season. The other two heart breakers came against FAB 50 ranked top 10 clubs St. Benedict's of nearby Newark, N.J. and Findlay Prep of Henderson, Nev. At halftime against Oak Hill, St. Patrick head coach Kevin Boyle commented on the controversial situation surrouding his program.

"I wasn't suprised (with the decision)," Boyle said. "These type of committees support eachother. It's a rubber stamp. It's very concerning nobody had a question about it (the school lawyer's retort to the allegations). You'd be shocked if you heard the argument."

The Celts gave a valiant effort in light of the NJSIAA's decision, but came up a bit short. The three losses also hurts the Celts' chances to play in the National High School Invitational (NHSI) regardless of the allegations and subsequent ruling.

Lamb, Pe'Shon Howard and Roscoe Smith combined for 55 points for Oak Hill. Mr. Basketball USA candidates Michael Gilchrist and Kyrie Irving played well in defeat for St. Pat's. The Duke-bound Irving scored 15 first half points and finished with 28 points. Gilchrist, a junior, scored 15 points in the third quarter alone and also finished with 28 points.