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Judge set to rule whether teen from Congo can play basketball for Mooseheart

Rodrique Makindu known by his nickname ‘Ceda’ watches Mooseheart basketball scrimmage from stands. | Rick Armstrong/Sun-Times Media

Rodrique Makindu, known by his nickname ‘Ceda,’ watches a Mooseheart basketball scrimmage from the stands. | Rick Armstrong/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 1, 2014 10:28AM

The ball is now in the court of 16th Judicial Circuit Court Judge David Akemann.

Eighteen-year-old Mooseheart student Roderigue ‘Ceda’ Makindu is hoping it bounces his way, allowing him to take to the basketball court for the first time this season. He could join his Red Rambler teammates in Friday’s Class 1A Somonauk Regional basketball final against Newark.

Akemann Thursday heard a complaint in Kane County court, filed the day before on Makindu’s behalf by Aurora attorney Judd Lofchie, against the Illinois High School Association concerning Makindu’s eligibility.

It contends the organization improperly amended a bylaw last year that led to the Congo native and as many as 125 other international students across the state being ruled ineligible for athletic participation since they are not part of an approved student exchange program.

Lofchie decided to take up Makindu’s case after reading about his situation in a Beacon-News story on Jan. 16. Plano Athletic Director Jim Schmidt helped bring the youngster to America in 2012 after Makindu reached out for help via email two years earlier, seeking to leave his civil war-torn country to pursue educational opportunities here.

Lofchie is seeking a temporary restraining order that would allow Makindu, who has practiced with the team all year, to play.

Lisle attorney David Bressler, who was joined by IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman in court, filed a 30-plus-page response. Akemann said he would notify the parties Friday by fax of his decision on the temporary restraining order after taking time to review the IHSA response.

“I don’t know how I feel,” Makindu said in a hallway outside the courtroom. “I’m hurt. I think I should just be able to enjoy sports like American [teens]. It’s hard.”

Akemann is the judge who last year heard Mooseheart’s case involving the eligibility of four of its international students from South Sudan, three of whom play basketball. Those students came here with the assistance of an organization that sought “athletic opportunities” for foreign students.

It prompted passage last January of Amendment 3.034.3 to the IHSA bylaws.

Bressler argued the IHSA vote on the amendment was proper, that it followed a procedure that has been in place for nine years and has never protested before. He said the amendment was the organization’s way of “trying to level the field of competition.”

He added that a lopsided 95-26 Mooseheart win earlier this season “with three seven-footers” was probably a factor in the IHSA “struggling with these kids.”

Akemann asked if he felt Mooseheart was “recruiting ringers?”

Bressler said there was concern that there was “significant likelihood of that.”

Lofchie, though, argued that the case is “not about Mooseheart vs. the IHSA. That’s not part of the conversation” and noted he is representing only Makindu and that the school had no interest in pursuing a case because it would be too expensive.

Mooseheart basketball coach Ron Ahrens has said the 6-foot-3 Makindu, whose favorite sport is soccer, would likely be his top reserve if he were allowed to play. Mooseheart does not have a soccer team.

An emotional Schmidt said if he could have had the teenager live with him and attend Plano he would have, but his school does not have the proper certification. Aurora Christian and Mooseheart both do, but Makindu’s parents could not afford the tuition for ACS, which is why they applied to Mooseheart.

“If he was here just for basketball, why not go back to his country when he was ruled ineligible?” said Schmidt. “He just put his head down and told me he was lucky to be here.

“It was the first time I saw any emotion from him and it was sad. I know I did the right thing in bringing him here and I know I had to fight for him. He’s now an extension of my family.”

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