A West Seneca high school basketball standout may not finish his career the way he expected.
"Hopefully they make the right decision so I can stay on the court and play with my brothers," West Seneca West senior Juston Johnson, said.
Johnson did not suit up with his team for the Tuesday night game vs Williamsville North.
Johnson has been declared ineligible to play basketball for his senior year. According to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, the issue is that Johnson has exceeded the maximum number of years to play, which is six. His dad says that's not true.
"When most people hear seven years, he's trying to play seven years of high school, and that's not the case. He's actually only played five," Demeris Johnson, his father, said.
Johnson started playing high school basketball in 7th grade.
He's allowed to play 6 consecutive years. That means he's eligible to play from 7th grade to 12th grade.
He is a senior now so you would think that this is his sixth and final year of eligibility, but that's not true.
The issue is that in 8th grade he suffered an injury that prevented him from playing. It was so bad that his family decided to home school him for that year. He was going to go to high school, but he was held back because he didn't meet proper academic standards for graduation.
Once he healed, he proceeded to play the following 8th-11th grade seasons. Now as a senior, his years of eligibility are maxed out.
His family wants to extend his eligibility citing a rule that any athlete who is injured is allowed an eligibility extension if the injury forced the player to need extra time to graduate.
"The injury caused him to miss a year and the appropriate amount of time in school, which therefore qualifies him for an eligibility extension," his father said.
However, the athletic association already ruled that Johnson's situation does not count because academic reasons are not one of those circumstances.
The rule is geared to someone who has a serious and compelling reason as to why they need extra time to graduate and therefore extending eligibility. For example, if someone were to be going through chemotherapy and were physically unable to perform their academic duties, that would qualify for an eligibility extension.
On Wednesday, Johnson will learn if he is granted a stay from an Erie County judge, so he could play while the family appeals the athletic associations decision.
However, if they get the stay and don't win the appeal, which could take more than a month, his team would forfeit all its games that Johnson played in. So the decision becomes whether or not Johnson wants to play in those games.
The West Seneca West basketball team issued that it is willing to take on the consequences of forfeiting games.
"We understand that if Juston is declared temporarily eligible and later deemed ineligible, that we may be subject to team discipline in the form of forfeiting games. Despite this potential punishment, we unanimously share the sentiment that we wish for Juston to be granted this relief from the court even if it comes at the cost at forfeiting those games in which he participates that we win."
West Seneca Central School district Superintendent, Matthew Bystrak, issued this statement: “Juston is a great young man and we certainly sympathize with him. Obviously we would love for him to participate. We also have to abide by a ruling from Section 6, otherwise the team would risk having to forfeit games.”
The NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas said, "The NYSPHSAA and its 11 member Sections are responsible for enforcing NYSPHSAA rules and New York State Education Department regulations as they are written. The integrity of the games played by our student-athletes and the fairness for all involved are certainly at stake if rules are not followed."