Thursday January 26, 2012
Cunningham cleared to play at GW
by J.T. Simms
Daily Mail sports writer
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Adrian Cunningham will finally get to play basketball again.
The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Board of Directors ruled Cunningham is eligible to compete immediately on Wednesday afternoon in Parkersburg.
After an initial meeting with the SSAC, Cunningham had been ruled ineligible because it was determined that she had transferred from Poca to George Washington for athletic reasons.
Poca dropped its girls basketball program after three games when the roster shrank to seven players.
“Because of student confidentiality I cannot comment,” said SSAC Executive Director Gary Ray, who had made the original ruling.
SSAC rules do not allow for a student to transfer for athletic reasons and be eligible immediately whether they physically moved to a new school district or not.
Nothing in the rule addresses a school dropping an athletic program, though.
“The lack of exception in the rule was very important,” said Karina Kendrick, of the Jackson, Kelly law firm, which represented Cunningham.
“We found 19 other states that have exceptions or cooperative agreements,” Kendrick said. “We also argued that denying her this opportunity, which she lost through no fault of her own, would impose a hardship.”
“(The Board of Directors) were very responsive to these arguments,” Kendrick said.
The Cunningham family moved to the George Washington school district at the start of January.
In making the move, Cunningham, a National Honor Society student, added classes that were not offered at Poca.
“We’re just happy that she is able to further her academic and athletic career,” Kendrick said.
Besides excelling in the classroom, Cunningham excels on the court, field, and track.
Cunningham, a 5-foot-10 senior, is able to play four positions on the basketball court and has been a Class AA All-State second-team selection in basketball each of her first three seasons. She has scored 1,339 points in her career.
She was a Daily Mail All-Kanawha Valley first-team pick after averaging 20 points, six rebounds and three assists per game last season.
This past fall, Cunningham was a Class AA All-State first-team pick in soccer and was named the Class AA/A Defender of the Year by the state coaches association after leading the Dots to their best season ever.
In track, she won the Class AA state championship in the 300-meter low hurdles as a sophomore.
Last season, she took high point honors at the State Meet after repeating as champion in that event as well as taking second in the 100-meter hurdles and third in the 200-meter dash.
Cunningham, who has not played since Dec. 12, will play her first game with the Patriots against Class AAA No. 4 South Charleston at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Charleston Civic Center as part of a girls-boys doubleheader.
“We’re excited about having her as a student at our school and as a member of the basketball team,” George Washington Coach Jamie LaMaster said. “We’re just happy she’s been given the opportunity to play.”
After starting the season with six consecutive victories and ranked No. 2 in the state, the Patriots (9-5) dropped five of their next eight games and out of the rankings before rolling to an impressive 75-29 win over Parkersburg on Tuesday night.
Cunningham arrives at a crucial time for George Washington.
After facing the Black Eagles, the Patriots take on No. 5 University in a Big Atlantic Classic contest on Thursday and then face either Hedgesville or No. 1 Greenbrier East on Friday or Saturday depending on the outcome of Thursday’s game.
Greenbrier East Coach Jim Justice heart about the decision Wednesday afternoon.
“I hope she can play,” Justice said. “We could play them in the (Big Atlantic) Classic, that would be great.
“When will somebody just say, ‘This is about the kids.’ It’s not about some macho trip, it’s just about these kids.”
The Patriots then head to Lewisburg on Tuesday, Feb. 7 to face the Spartans. Contests against No. 9 Spring Valley and No. 10 Beckley follow later that same week.
The original Charleston Daily Mail article: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/Sports/201201260009?page=1&build=cache
Contact sportswriter J.T. Simms at jtsi…@dailymail.com or 304-348-1735.