Pembroke Academy appeals NHIAA ruling that its players broke the rules
Pembroke Academy is appealing a ruling by the state’s governing body on high school athletics that declares two transfer students ineligible to play for its powerhouse boys’ basketball team, saying they are victims of rumors that an Amateur Athletic Union program improperly steers players to the school.
Pembroke Headmaster Mike Reardon said this week that he supports the players, Adam Presutti, who played at Merrimack Valley High School last season, and Rob Wilson, a member of the Londonderry High School team in 2013.
“I am confident that the boys are here for reasons that are legitimate,” Reardon said, “and we should support their right to play basketball.”
The decision to deny eligibility was made by Pat Corbin, executive director of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association. His ruling was upheld by an eligibility committee, a subset of the NHIAA’s Representative Council that includes principals, athletic directors and coaches from across the state.
“The issue is . . . that they’re not entitled to a waiver of the transfer rules under the circumstances,” said Samantha Elliott, a Concord lawyer hired to represent the NHIAA during the appeals process. She would not elaborate.
Members of the Presutti family did not return calls, and Wilson’s father declined to comment.
The next step in the appeals process is another hearing, this time in front of the NHIAA Council Appeals Board. Beyond that, the matter would have to go to court.
The dispute has roots in a local AAU basketball program, the Concord-based Granite State Raiders, which is run by Frank Alosa, the father of Pembroke’s coach, Matt Alosa.
AAU is a private, nationwide summer basketball program that involves intensive training as well as regional and national tournament play.
The Alosa combination has created an undercurrent within the state’s basketball community, with other coaches complaining privately that the Raiders program, which draws players from across the state and is nationally known, serves as a feeder system for Pembroke’s roster.
At least seven members of defending state champion and unbeaten Pembroke compete for the Raiders, Frank Alosa said. Matt Alosa is an assistant coach for his father’s AAU program.
The NHIAA closely monitors transfers by athletes, down to rules regarding foster and homeless children. One focus is ensuring that athletes have properly moved into their new school zone.
“A residence is defined as the place where the student’s parents have established their permanent home,” the NHIAA handbook states. “This means that the family regularly eats and sleeps in a specific place of lodging.”
If these terms are met and the NHIAA believes the student didn’t move for athletic reasons, eligibility is immediate.
If a move doesn’t meet the residency requirement, the student can seek a waiver. Speaking generally, Corbin said this is common practice when parents separate or divorce.
The NHIAA rules prohibit recruiting high school athletes, and also say that a student who switches schools for athletic purposes – that is, to play for a certain team or coach – must sit out a year, even if the family meets the residency requirement.
The decision means the high school career of Presutti, a 6-foot-7 senior, could be over if the NHIAA Council Appeals Board also upholds Corbin’s decision. Wilson, a 6-foot-8 junior, would have one more season remaining.
Before the season, in compliance with NHIAA regulations, Wilson and Presutti each secured signatures from principals at their original schools, who were asked to verify that they believed recruiting did not take place and the students weren’t leaving because they wanted to join a different sports program.
Corbin announced his decision blocking the players’ request to play last month, near the start of the season. In an interview, he would not detail his reasons, saying he wanted to wait for the appeals process to finish.
“I would generally sign off on (the waiver),” Corbin said. “If I didn’t sign off on it, then there’s more to the case, and that’s where I can’t go.”
Once Corbin reached his decision, it became Pembroke’s obligation to investigate the matter. Reardon, the headmaster, said the school concluded that the students’ residences and reasons for transferring followed the rules, and they should have been allowed to play. Both are attending Pembroke Academy.
But the first appeal panel upheld Corbin’s decision. A date has not yet been set for the next hearing.
Reardon is not optimistic that Presutti and Wilson will be reinstated.
“I don’t think the kids will be allowed to play,” Reardon said. “I think they’re getting caught up in some perceptions of what goes on or what has gone on in this relationship between the boys’ AAU team.”
Frank Alosa, a basketball star at Bishop Brady High School in the 1960s, founded the Granite State Raiders nearly 30 years ago.
He has coached dozens of players who moved on to play college ball, and his prized pupil, Concord High School graduate Matt Bonner, plays for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.
Fiery and outspoken, Frank Alosa has rubbed many within state basketball circles the wrong way, first as a high school coach and now as the Raiders’s leader.
His son, Matt, was a high-scoring star at Pembroke Academy in the late 1980s, and later played Division I ball at Providence College and the University of New Hampshire. He also played professionally in Europe before returning to coach at his alma mater eight years ago.
Soon after, with Frank Alosa’s AAU program drawing talent from across the state and his son coaching at Pembroke, the NHIAA began receiving complaints that Pembroke had an unfair advantage.
High school coaches who’d lost players to Pembroke – either because they had moved during high school or before, in earlier grades – privately expressed anger. Writers who didn’t identify themselves sent letters to the newspaper crying foul.
Both Alosas say the critics are wrong.
“I assure you we run our program with the utmost integrity as far as coaching and the kids,” said Matt Alosa.
Frank Alosa added, “Pembroke Academy is not going to let some kid go in there and sit in an apartment by himself and go play ball for Pembroke. You have to have proof of residency and do all these kinds of things.
“Pat Corbin is fantasizing about finding that Frank Alosa is directing the kids to go to Pembroke Academy to play for Matt,” he continued. “We’re never going to tell you or anyone else to go play here.”
Pembroke won the state championship last season, finishing with a 22-0 record. The Spartans are 6-0 after Tuesday’s 59-47 win over Hollis/Brookline.
“Matt didn’t need any more kids to win,” Frank Alosa said.