Clarkston Voices Anger, Frustration Over Hoopster’s Ineligibility At Press Conference
The gloves are off. The lips are unsealed.
After a month of staying mum on the status of boys basketball star Thomas Kithier, Clarkston is making it known that school administrators and the boys basketball program are quite displeased with how the Michigan High School Aathletic Association and Macomb Dakota have handled his transfer. Over the last couple months, Clarkston had chosen to not address the issue in public.
The 6-foot-8 Kithier, a senior power forward who signed with Michigan State, transferred to Clarkston last summer, following three years at Dakota. He was ruled ineligible for the entire basketball 2017-2018 season by the MHSAA based on the move being deemed athletically motivated. Then this week, the MHSAA rejected an appeal seeking to reverse the decision.
On Friday, Clarkston administrators held a news conference to voice their outrage that the Wolves powerhouse program is being wrongly made an example of. In its decision, the MHSAA stated that they found no undue influence on Clarkston’s part in getting Kithier to enroll in its school district, but cited a violation of its “links rule” as reason for Kithier’s ineligibility since Kithier and Wolves all-state point guard Foster Loyer, who also signed with MSU, played together on the same Ohio AAU squad this past offseason.
“I feel like there are two sets of rules,” said Clarkston coach Dan Fife of the situation. “I don’t know how the MHSAA and Macomb Dakota can look at themselves in the mirror right now.”
Dakota, the beneficiary of several transfers into its basketball program the last few years, filed a grievance with the state once it became known Kithier was leaving and the school’s principal refused to sign the requisite educational transfer form, which would have allowed Kithier to play for Clarkston. The two schools have clashed in the Class A regionals the past three seasons, with Clarkston winning two games (2015, 17) and Dakota one (2016).
Clarkston’s athletic director Jeff Kosin was quick to point out at Friday’s press conference that he felt MHSAA assistant director Tom Rashid was unprofessional in his response to finding out that the transfer in question was Kithier.
“Everything was yes, yes and yes and then when Thomas’ name came up, things changed drastically,” Kosin said. “He said, ‘wait, what are you guys trying to do?…….if Dakota has any (expletive), they won’t sign the transfer papers’”
Upon Dakota finding out Kithier was leaving, Kosin, who had been in contact with the school without the school knowing for certain that it was Kithier who was enrolling at Clarkston, claims Dakota administrators went “underground” and stopped all communication.
Kithier first moved into an apartment by himself. Since the fall, his mom and dad have joined him.
Last year Kithier averaged nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.
“There were circumstances at Thomas’ former school that were untenable,” Kosin said. “This is a kid suffering at the hands of adults. He’s a strong kid. He’s very happy here and he’s definitely handling this a lot better than I would have at his age.”
Kosin and Clarkston School’s Superintendent Rod Rock vowed to keep fighting for Kithier’s eligibility, explaining that there is one more appeal avenue at the state level and that the school and Kithier family haven’t ruled out the possibility of legal action.
“This is as angry as I’ve been in my 25 years of education,” Rock said.
The MHSAA issued a response which stated, in part, that "In neither Clarkston’s written appeal nor its presentation to the Executive Committee has it been stated that the family has made a full and complete change of residence into the Clarkston school district. The mother’s affidavit of Nov. 13, 2017, attested that she and her husband did not reside in Clarkston with their son, but in Macomb, Mich. Under the Athletic Motivated Transfer Regulation, a full subsequent move by the family would not reduce the 180-day period of ineligibility."