Former Monessen basketball player Elijah Minnie ruled ineligible to play at Lincoln Park
The Monessen School District won round one Wednesday as the WPIAL ruled that basketball star Elijah Minnie is ineligible to play at Lincoln Park this season.
Now, Monessen principal Brian Sutherland says he has to get ready for a probable appeal hearing before the PIAA.
In an eligibility hearing before the WPIAL Board of Control, officials from Monessen, Lincoln Park and Summit Academy all testified in a session that lasted nearly an hour and 45 minutes.
At the end, the WPIAL “unanimously” agreed with Monessen's stance that Minnie's move was an issue of recruiting and a transfer for athletic intent.
“I am both relieved and pleased,” Sutherland said. “It shows me that all the hard work we put in on this was worth it. And we were right in this case.”
Minnie, a talented 6-8 junior, transferred to Lincoln Park, a charter school in Midland, prior to the start of the current school year.
Minnie played for Monessen as a freshman before a knee injury ended his season early. He averaged just under 10 points in six games for the Greyhounds as a freshman
During the 2010-11 school year, Minnie was at Summit Academy, a private school in Butler County for delinquent young men ages 14-18. Minnie was placed at Summit in 2011.
Minnie played basketball for Summit Academy last season and helped lead the team to a 17-5 record and a trip to the WPIAL Class AA playoffs. He averaged 15.5 points per game last season and is considered one of the premier players in the WPIAL going into the upcoming season.
After Summit, he was released back to the Monessen School District. However, Minnie instead transferred to Lincoln Park, and Monessen immediately protested the move.
Monessen was represented at the closed WPIAL hearing by Sutherland, athletic director Gina Naccarato and boys' basketball coach Joe Salvino.
All three said they were confident after walking out of the hearing.
“In my opinion, Lincoln Park representatives hung themselves with their testimony,” Sutherland said.
Sutherland said he thought the hearing was interesting from the start because both Lincoln Park and Summit Academy brought lawyers.
“These WPIAL hearings are supposed to be principal to principal and I was representing us,” Sutherland said. “I thought just the fact that Lincoln Park and Summit brought lawyers instead of principals raised some eyebrows.”
Neither Naccarato nor Sutherland would discuss the particulars of the hearing because the testimony is considered private, but both said they felt Monessen did a good job with its argument.
“There were some discrepancies in their stories,” Sutherland said of Lincoln Park and Summit Academy.
Apparently, the WPIAL felt the same way.
“When I got the call from WPIAL Executive Director Tim O'Malley about the decision, he told me the board was totally unanimous in its decision that Elijah is ineligible at Lincoln Park,” he said.
Sutherland added that Minnie is always welcome to come back to Monessen and finish his academic and athletic career, but he expects the WPIAL decision will be appealed to the PIAA.
“That's what I suspect will happen,” Sutherland said. “I was told if that is the case, the hearing will probably take place around Thanksgiving. Now I have to get ready for the next round.”
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.