Suspended Duluth East basketball player awaits ruling
As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, coach Chuck Tolo and the Duluth East boys basketball team still were awaiting word on whether 7-foot center Akolda Manyang’s appeal of his suspension would be granted.
"No one has contacted us yet so we don’t know," Tolo said. "We have some other information that leads us to believe (that he won’t play), but we don’t know. There’s nothing official right now."
Manyang and Tolo spoke Monday in front of an appeals panel led by East principal Laurie Knapp in hopes of having a Minnesota State High School League suspension lifted. Manyang said Monday he denies the accusation that he used tobacco, which necessitated him missing East’s two Section 7AAAA playoff games. He was not on the team bus headed to Minneapolis on Tuesday morning.
Though the panel has three days to make a decision, the waiting game was wearing thin on an animated Tolo.
"It’s getting late and I really would hate to think that our school district would want to hang our team out this long," he said by cell phone. "We’re playing in 17 hours and Akolda is in Duluth. They must know the decision and I wish they would tell us what’s going on. They can hold it three days, but why hold it till Thursday when the district knows that we play (today)? My question to them is ‘Whose team are you on?’
"We’re a Duluth school. So if you know, tell us what’s going on. I want to know one way or the other. If you have bad news, at least have the guts to tell us what’s going on."
If successful on appeal, Manyang would have to be driven down this morning by an East administrator, Tolo said.
Despite the off-court distractions, Tolo said his team had a spirited practice Tuesday at Minnehaha Academy.
"Our preparation has not wavered one bit," he said. "We are keeping our kids out of it and they are focusing on the job of why we’re down here. These adult issues going on, we’re trying to deflect and take care of them. I expect us to play a whale of a game; win, lose or draw, there won’t be any excuses."
Manyang averaged 17.6 points and 12.7 rebounds and 5.7 blocked shots to help the sixth-ranked Greyhounds to a 20-8 record.
Manyang, who ran afoul of the law in his hometown of Rochester and was sent to Woodland Hills, a Duluth facility for at-risk youth, denies using tobacco. He says he twice requested a test in order to prove his innocence but that Woodland Hills officials rejected the idea.
"He has a right to prove his innocence through chemical testing; he requested it twice and was denied," said Lynn Janzen, foster mother of Manyang’s older brother, Ater, a four-year basketball standout at Century High School. Both drove to Duluth from Rochester to lend support.
Janzen suggested Manyang’s civil rights were being violated. She carried several packets of highlighted information from the American Civil Liberties Union pointing out that his rights to be able to cross-examine witnesses and have an attorney present were not allowed.
"He has the right to cross-examine the person that accused him of doing this and any other witnesses, but he hasn’t even been told the name of the (accuser)," Janzen said. "The next place we will be contacting is the ACLU. We will be filing a complaint."
Assistant coach Will Starks claims his effort to become Manyang’s foster father was undermined by Woodland Hills due to a disagreement over when the former Rochester Century student should graduate. Approximately a week before Manyang’s suspension, a meeting among Tolo, Starks and Woodland Hills staff was held at Woodland Middle School.
"They were saying that, ‘We need you on board with us in terms that Akolda is going to graduate this year,’" Starks related. "We said, ‘No, we don’t agree with that.’ He’s already stated that he wants to graduate in 2013 because he’s only had three years of high school. So they got upset and made up their minds that, ‘OK, you guys don’t want to roll with us, then we’ll roll right over you.’
"Four days later, they get him on a violation for smoking."
Five players refused to accept medals after the Section 7AAAA championship game Friday in a show of support for Manyang and a sign of protest over the situation.