Despite being ruled ineligible to play basketball in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS), Charles Bassey, Tuesday 29 November, played for St. Anthony Catholic High School. The action subsequently led to the sack of Jeff Merritt, Yellow Jackets head coach.
Dr. Rene Escobedo, St. Anthony principal, said in a statement announcing the sack of Merritt on Thursday:
“This action follows a decision made Tuesday night by Coach Merritt to allow a student to play who was recently ruled ineligible by the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS), at the boys’ basketball game versus Beeville Jones High School. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Bassey was discovered to have played in St. Anthony’s game against Beeville Jones High School on Tuesday, where he scored nine points in a 61-49 win for the Yellow Jackets.
Mike Luce, Beeville boys basketball head coach, said he was not aware of Bassey’s ineligibility at the time he came off the bench to play for the Yellow Jackets. He said some of St. Anthony’s parents, who were present at the game, claimed that St. Anthony Catholic High had appealed to TAPPS to have Bassey’s eligibility restored, which was later discovered to be a false claim.
“Some time in the second quarter, I guess this Bassey kid came out…The crowd gave him a standing ovation. He did play.”
Bryan Bunselmeyer, TAPPS executive director, said he saw a video footage of the Tuesday game where he was certain he saw Bassey, who wore a number 23 jersey, play for the Yellow Jackets.
A source disclosed that Merritt’s decision to play Bassey in Tuesday’s game was influenced by Bassey’s decision to stay at St. Anthony this year. Bassey had earlier stated, shortly after his ineligibility ruling, that: “I’m going to stay here because I love this school.”
Merritt who joined St. Anthony Catholic High School in July 2016 said at the time he was hired to coach the Yellow Jackets that the opportunity to coach Bassey was one of the reasons he took the job. Casey Barksdale, an assistant whom Merritt brought to St. Anthony, has assumed duties as the acting head coach.
The TAPPS Board conducted an investigation after it received complaints that Bassey, along with four other kids, had received inducements to attend St. Anthony in order to play for the Yellow Jackets. The outcome of the investigation led to the voiding of Bassey’s eligibility in the TAPPS area for the rest of his high school career. The 6’10 sophomore from Nigeria, considered the No. 2 college prospect in the 2019 graduating class by ESPN, along with two other teammates, were banned on November 17 for the rest of their high school career from playing in the TAPPS area. Two other players who had just joined St. Anthony at the start of the new academic year are due to get a TAPPS’ ruling on their eligibility on Monday 5 December.
Some have advised that Bassey should transfer out of St. Anthony and the TAPPS area in order to continue his student-athletic career and avoid further troubles. It is feared that his stock, when and if he decides to play professional basketball, may be hampered by scandalous cases such as the present one.