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New transfer rule causing confusion

Matt O'Neill and Steve Yingling

Transfers have almost always been an integral part of college athletics.

Whether an athlete goes from a junior college to a four-year school or just switches four-year schools, programs have been both hurt and helped by athletes coming and going between institutions.

But, on the high school level, the migration of athletes has been on a much lower scale. Nonetheless, star athletes have been known to transfer across town to better his or her chances at earning a scholarship to college.

Recently, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association changed its rules to curb the ever-changing flow and power of high school sports, yet allow students to transfer for legitimate reasons.

In the past, players had to sit out 180 school days no matter what reason they gave for the transfer.

However, under the newly modified rule, student-athletes can transfer to another school without sitting out the probation period, but the athlete cannnot play a varsity sport within the first 180 days at the new school.

The one exception to the rule is if the family actually moves to a house in the district of the new school.

“Anytime someone legitimately moves into a new residence, the waiting period is waived,” NIAA Executive Director Dr. Jerry Hughes said. “But we have criteria they would have to meet like turning off electricity, phone service and all other utilities at the former dwelling.”

Summers family testing new rule

The new rule is already being tested by one of the South Shore’s top basketball players.

As a freshman, Nick Summers played a major role in the Whittell Warriors winning the zone basketball championship and finishing third at the 2A state tournament last winter.

Tougher competition, more commitment and a better opportunity to play at the next level are some of the reasons why Whittell High sophomore Nick Summers appears to be headed to Douglas High.

“It’s tough at our little school because not enough kids want to play spring and summer ball,” said John Summers, Nick’s dad and a teacher at Whittell.

“It’s unfortunate and unfair for someone who wants to improve themselves in the off-season.

“Nick has aspirations to go on and play at the next level.”

However, the interpretation of Summers’ transfer isn’t similar to many student athletes his age. Since Summers played varsity football and basketball last year at Whittell, he apparently loses the opportunity to transfer to another school and play varsity sports immediately.

Unless the NIAA rules his case differently, he’ll play junior varsity football and basketball as a Douglas sophomore.

Further muddling Summers’ situation is the different scenarios that could play out regarding the family’s dual residences. The Summers live on Kingsbury Grade but do own residential property in the valley. If they move their primary residence to the valley, Nick could be eligible to play varsity sports immediately.

But the family could also decide to have one parent live with Nick in the valley, while the other parent continues to reside with their oldest son, Jake, on Kingsbury Grade.

“The rule affects Jake drastically because he’s a junior. He has to sit out if he transfers and we don’t move,” John Summers said. “If Nick transfers and we don’t move, he’s only eligible to play JV.”

Consequently, Jake is leaning toward returning to Whittell, according to John. Jake participated in Whittell’s first football practice Monday.

JV ball would be an appropriate level for Nick in football, but not in basketball.

“For Nick in basketball that would be a tough pill to swallow. But I can see their point. They’re trying to keep McQueen from getting all the football players and Galena from getting all the basketball and baseball players,” John Summers said.

John Summers’ gripe with the new NIAA rule is that the small-school athletes are treated the same as large-school athletes.

“At Whittell, you play varsity football no matter what when you’re a freshman and playing 2A basketball isn’t the same as playing 4A basketball,” he said.

Other families have split up their children

The Summers wouldn’t be the first local family to send their children to separate high schools. Baseball players Bobby and Brandon Lee went to Douglas and Whittell, respectively. Both developed into impact players at both schools. Brandon was the 2A Player of the Year as a senior last spring when the Warriors captured the state championship.

The most-scrutinized local transfer in the past decade was when the Case brothers, Alan and Jon, sat out an entire basketball season to switch from Whittell to South Tahoe. The brothers lost a year of eligibility because their parents maintained their residence in Douglas County.

Alan starred for three seasons at STHS and then played two years at Moorpark College and one at Chico State. Jon transferred back to Whittell for his senior year, but the NIAA ruled him ineligible to play sports.

Maltase experiences rule firsthand

Warrior boys soccer and basketball coach Steve Maltase will be one of the first coaches in the area to have to deal with the new rule.

Along with two of his varsity players, the Summers brothers, he may also lose high-scoring soccer forward Nestor Flores.

Although Flores will play for the Warriors this fall, he may be gone by basketball season as his family is attempting to relocate to the Las Vegas area.

But because Flores has stayed in the area until now, he has already practiced with Maltase and will play this fall.

“If he were to leave now, he wouldn’t able to play until the end of the season because of the 10-practice rule,” Maltase said. “I wouldn’t blow the whistle on him, but I’m glad he’s staying.”

As for the new rule itself, Maltase has seen a similar ruling affect the Portland, Ore., area sporting landscape.

Many of the schools in the Portland league have different strengths academically. One school may be touted as the technical school, while another is for language and yet another is strong in liberal arts.

But that doesn’t stop athletes from migrating to one school or another.

“In the PIL, every school has their strength, but all the basketball players still go to (Thomas) Jefferson and all the baseball players go to (James) Madison,” Maltase said. “So it doesn’t stop them from going where the good sports are.

“I think the same thing may end up happening in Reno. Baseball players will go to Galena, while the football players will go to McQueen and so on.”

However, while Maltase said he’s feeling the effects of the rule now, he thinks he’d feel it more if he were in Reno.

“If I were living and teaching where more schools were easily accessible, then I think it’d be more of a problem than it is up here,” he said.