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H-BR coach Sambrookes clarifies role in investigation

Updated: December 5, 2012 11:05PM

Now that the anticipated boys basketball game between Hinckley-Big Rock and Mooseheart ended with the Royals rallying for a 58-51 win, the issues off the court again come to the forefront.

Mooseheart’s trio of Sudanese players — Mangisto Deng, Akim Nyang and Makur Puou — have one more game against nationally-ranked LaLumiere in LaPorte, Ind., Saturday before their hearing before the IHSA board Monday in Bloomington.

That ruling will determine whether the players will be eligible for the rest of the season.

“You know what, I can’t really comment on that because it would all be speculation,” Mooseheart coach Ron Ahrens said. “I have no idea. I want them playing all year for us. That’s obvious. I love those guys. They deserve to play. That will be an early Christmas present for us if they get ruled eligible.”

The trio made a huge impact in Wednesday’s game, led by Puou. He scored 25 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, both game-highs. Deng scored 13 points and Nyang hauled down 10 rebounds.

They did that under the backdrop of multiple media outlets and an overflow crowd of over 1,000 in the historic Hinckley gym that cause dozens of people to be turned away well before tip-off. It was also a day after the trio of players were ruled ineligible by the IHSA and then allowed back onto the court by a Kane County judge, quite a whirlwind journey.

“I just knew we were coming to play and have fun, that’s all that was on my mind,” Puou said. “We just went out there and had fun. It’s very fun to play in a game like this.”

Hinckley-Big Rock was accused of being the school that prompted the IHSA inquiry into the three players, an allegation the school denied via press release on Tuesday and was further expanded upon by head coach and athletic director Bill Sambrookes after the game Wednesday.

“There was so much garbage being said on Facebook, so much garbage in the media,” Sambrookes said, “Not all the facts were true. They were taking things that were said by one side and sensationalizing things on TV. That’s the only thing people were hearing. They were hearing only one side of the story.”

Sambrookes said he met with his team Tuesday to explain his role in the IHSA investigation.

“I don’t have an issue with the kids,” Sambrookes said. “I don’t have an issue with anything going on with them. The question I had for the IHSA was that we’re Hinckley and Big Rock. We get our kids from these communities. We lose a certain percentage to private schools in Aurora. They’re drawing kids from a foreign country. Explain to me, IHSA, how that’s a level playing field. That’s the only thing I was looking for. And I never got that answer. I still haven’t gotten that answer. I never had any intent on having anybody ineligible or disqualified.”

After the game, Sambrookes was happy with the win, noting that it would have been a huge win for either team considering all that has transpired in recent days.

“It was nice to win with all of the stuff going on,” Sambrookes said. “I know Mooseheart would have liked to have said the same thing. I think both teams were in a nerve-wracking situation. I thought all the players on the court, all the players on the bench, the coaches were all sportsmanship all the way. That’s the way it should have been.”

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