USA Basketball coach Jeff Walz on Maori Davenport suspension: 'It's terrible'

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- University of Louisville women's basketball coach Jeff Walz, who was also the coach of the USA Basketball team at the heart of the Maori Davenport suspension, called the situation "terrible" and "sad" in his first public comments on the matter.

"I say it all the time with my own players: Unfortunately in our society, common sense isn't very common anymore," Walz told espnW after Louisville's game at Notre Dame on Thursday. "And I think this is a situation where common sense is absolutely being lost. There was nothing mischievous that was trying to be done by Maori. She's a great kid. I recruited her. Her family was supernice.

"It's sad because it's a kid's senior year. And again, this is what happens a lot -- it's adults getting in the way of what should be a great experience for an 18-year-old to finish out her senior year."

Walz coached Davenport on the USA Basketball junior national team that competed in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Mexico City this past August. That team won the gold medal, and Davenport was named to the all-tournament team.

Three players with remaining high school eligibility were subsequently and mistakenly sent checks by USA Basketball, a common practice allowed by the NCAA for college-eligible players to compensate them for time and expenses that result from competing with a national team.

After initially depositing the check, Davenport repaid the $857.20 when USA Basketball discovered its error in November. She was nonetheless ruled ineligible on Nov. 30 for the remainder of this season at Charles Henderson High School by the Alabama High School Athletic Association for violating a rule that prohibits athletes from accepting compensation greater than $250.

While saying he didn't know how it came to light in November, Walz described the error by USA Basketball in sending the check to Davenport as an "honest mistake" and a "clerical error" that both the organization and Davenport's family attempted to remedy upon discovery.

"It's terrible; it's awful for the kid," Walz said. "And everybody is doing everything that we can to try to get this taken care of. It's something, to me, that when you look at it from the surface and then you read everything that is out there, I don't think it's a hard decision [to reinstate her]. I think it's a simple decision that should be made that's not being made.

"Again, adults are getting in the way and the kid is getting punished for it."

Walz said he had not spoken to Davenport since her suspension out of concern for NCAA rules concerning contact with a signed recruit and to avoid the appearance of tampering. Davenport signed with Rutgers in November. Walz said he instead called Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer and conveyed his feelings about the situation in the ensuing conversation.

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