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PSAL denies Edison forward Josh Gray’s appeal; father says it isn’t over

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The PSAL has denied Thomas Edison forward Josh Gray’s appeal for eligibility, FiveBoroSports has learned.

Gray, who transferred to the Jamaica school last March from Long Island City, was ruled ineligible in September by the PSAL after the league assessed his transfer was for athletic purposes, therefore forcing him to sit out one athletic year, as per league regulations.

“I feel violated,” Gray said. “I’m amazed they are still denying me. … I feel cheated.”

The city Department of Education declined comment.

Gray and his father, Herb, contend that the move was for academic reasons. He was granted a travel hardship transfer by the DOE since the commute from his Rosedale home took over two hours. Plus, he was failing classes at LIC, struggling in school in part because he often got home after 10 p.m. following practices or games.

But Rule 3.1 states: “Any transferring student who was on an active roster at a public high school at any time during the year prior to the date of transfer shall be ineligible to represent the school transferred to, in that sport, for a period of one year from the date of transfer, unless the student can demonstrate that the transfer is the result of an official change of residence by his/her parents or legal guardians or the result of a legal change in guardians.”

“There is no evidence that the transfer of this student falls into any of the permitted exceptions,” stated hearing officer Arnold H. Nager in an e-mail obtained by FiveBoroSports.com.

As per PSAL rules, Josh Gray can be placed on Edison’s roster March 5, 2009, Nager said, one year after he transferred to the school.

Herb Gray said the issue is far from over. He has contacted several lawyers, plans to file a discrimination bias complaint and hopes to schedule another appeal with DOE Chancellor Joel Klein.

Herb Gray said he thinks LIC Coach Harley Watstein, his son’s former coach, is at the heart of the matter.

The transfer admittedly caught Watstein by surprise — it happened less than a week after the Bulldogs were eliminated from the playoffs. Last year, he reportedly accused Edison Assistant Coach Rob Diaz of recruiting his former player. Josh Gray said he isn’t very close with Diaz, although he plays on his AAU team, NYC Finest.

During Edison’s PSAL Class AA semifinal loss at St. John’s University, Watstein, Josh Gray said, approached him and said, “I’m going to make sure you’re not going to play.” Herb Gray said he saw Watstein point him and his son out to PSAL boys’ basketball Commissioner Mel Goldstein. He also said Watstein sent a similar text message to his son.

Watstein denies the claims. He said the ruling is a positive, only because it affirms PSAL rules about transferring. He pointed out that Campus Magnet forward Chris Robinson sat out a year after transferring from John Adams and Forest Hills forward Alex Hall did the same after leaving August Martin.

“It gives coaches the knowledge that if you have a problem with a kid, that kid cannot just leave and play in another [PSAL] school right away,” Watstein said. “I give the PSAL credit. … That’s the risk you take when you transfer. If he’s allowed to play, maybe Cardozo can get a kid from Bryant.”

“It’s not up to me to say if the travel hardship is legitimate,” he added. “I give Josh’s father credit. His grades are more important. If his grades are up and he’s doing well at Edison, it was the right choice.”

But unless a sudden change is made, Josh Gray will have to watch Edison’s season unfold from a distance. He attends every game and helps out with the team’s stats. He said he will continue to do so.

Adding Josh Gray would’ve greatly benefited an Edison program that has broken through into the top tier in the PSAL.

Two years ago, they won the Queens borough title, knocking off powerhouses Cardozo and Campus Magnet as a Class A school. And last year, the Inventors made it all the way to the semis as the 11th seed in the city playoffs.

According to Coach John Ulmer, Josh Gray, a 6-foot-4 swingman who averaged nine points and eight rebounds as a sophomore, would’ve added “more defense, another athletic body.”

“The kid’s been doing everything right over here, but I don’t have any power,” Ulmer said. “The decision has been made and we’ll move forward from here.”

Herb Gray won’t give up without a fight. He has seen his son improve in the classroom and mature, but also take the prospect of not playing the sport he loves for a year extremely hard.

“Basketball is his passion,” the father said. “When he heard he could play, he changed, got depressed. I got to be perking him up every minute. It’s hard on the kid; he wants to play ball. It’s part of his advancement in school.”

Added Josh Gray: “It’s really difficult, but I’m going to stand by [Edison] and support them all year.”

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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