28.1.07

A BASKETBALL RECRUITING SCANDAL. In college, that's old news. In high school, it's not unheard of, but it is news.

Pius [XI High School] is again the talk of Milwaukee's basketball community. This time, though, it is for controversy surrounding some new faces in the boys program.

The private Catholic school that sits at the intersection of 76th and Stevenson has drawn ire for the six student-athletes who transferred in before the school year. The group was headlined by one of the nation's most praised players, Korie Lucious.

People outside of Pius, and many within the school's circle, believe the transfers were done illegally and unethically. High school basketball message boards called the program "cheats," and the overall theme of many of the posts was that "there's something obviously very fishy" going on at Pius.

Years ago, the ability of the religious high schools to recruit and to offer tuition assistance tantamount to athletic scholarships was a sore point with coaches and athletic directors in the public schools. In those days, they had to make do with whoever lived in the neighborhood. I understand that there is now statewide open enrollment, and it is not unknown for students to register at public high schools that are known for their sports programs. There remain, however, limits on financial aid for public school students.

Ultimately, will the transfers to Pius have any effect on the basketball team's standing? There is now one state tournament combining similar-sized public and private high schools in several divisions, rather than the two previously run for the government schools and for the "independent" schools. Milwaukee, Madison, and Janesville teams continue to fare well in the combined tournaments.

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