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High School

“Mr. High School Sports” – Too Lenient Toward Lincoln Park?

Lincoln Park celebrates

Former Cornell basketball player B.J. Lipke (right) celebrates with Lincoln Park teammate Trey Hosack after the Leopards beat Cornell for this year’s WPIAL Class A championship. (File photo: CBS Pittsburgh)

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By Matt Popchock

(mpopchock@kdka.com)

I lump myself into the camp of writers who genuinely enjoy feedback, and occasionally, like a lot of us, I incorporate it into my work, especially if a reader wants to challenge me on something I wrote.

Such was the case when a recently acquired Twitter follower–out of respect for his privacy, I’ll just call him “John”–contended I was not critical enough of the boys’ basketball program at Lincoln Park for its alleged recruiting practices in a piece I did a while back.

In John’s defense, his comment was not untimely. Elijah Minnie, who played for Monessen’s varsity squad as a freshman before spending a year playing for the Summit Academy (a one-and-done reform school in Butler County), has transferred to Lincoln Park for the upcoming WPIAL basketball season.

Minnie, a 6’8″ forward, has offensive upside and was the Knights’ leading shot-blocker in 2011-12 while they earned their first-ever outright section championship as a member of District 7.

However, a hearing on this matter is likely to take place, and the transfer could be nixed if the WPIAL determines it was purely for athletic intent. Meanwhile, rumors have swirled that towering Blackhawk forward Chandler Kincade, who sat out last season to focus on football, is also entertaining the thought of switching allegiance to the Leopards. (Kincade would still be permitted to play for Joe Hamilton in the fall since Lincoln Park doesn’t have a football team.)

Kincade had a promising freshman season for Blackhawk hoops in 2010-11, so that move too, if it came to fruition, would most assuredly raise the eyebrows of district officials.

A KDKA-TV report filed by Andy Sheehan about two months ago implied Lincoln Park might be guilty of pirating such talented basketball players from other school districts. Despite these new developments to which John pointed, I stand by what I wrote.

I stand by my belief that, with all due respect to Sheehan and the rest of my CBS Pittsburgh brethren, some of the content presented in that particular story was misleading. For example, the impact of former Cornell player B.J. Lipke’s decision to transfer to Lincoln Park was embellished, as Lipke played much of the 2011-12 season off the bench and scored just two points against his old team in limited playing time in the WPIAL Class A title game.

Furthermore, the WPIAL rules governing charter schools are comparatively loose as we speak, and neither Lipke, nor any of the students mentioned in the report, were ultimately found in violation of them. Besides, unless one is privy to one, there’s usually no telling what kind of evidence is presented by both sides during a transfer hearing, and there is reason to believe at least a couple players in question enrolled at Lincoln Park in light of unfortunate experiences in their home districts.

Don’t get me wrong: there have been times when Lincoln Park, just like other WPIAL members, failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance, and this isn’t the first time head coach Mark Javens has had a finger pointed in his general direction. However, for anyone to imply the program rose to glory just by cheating is to paint it with a very broad brush.

So, John, my answer is a qualified no. But to your point, I would fully support a thorough investigation into the Minnie case.

(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)

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