Here we go again.
After the emotion-filled Isaac Kellum saga at McIntosh last season, it seems like common sense is escaping the GHSA yet again. This time the situation revolves around 6-foot-6 sophomore Jalyn McCreary. Haven’t heard of him? You’re not the only one.
McCreary’s case is much different than Kellum’s from a year ago, but still the ruling is a bitter pill to swallow for those involved.
McCreary, who has lived in the Kennesaw Mountain zoning district since 2008, decided to attend Wheeler his freshman year. McCreary’s mother, Kristie Gordon, explained why in her hardship letter which is attached below.
“I am a Cobb County employee and my son began his freshman year at Wheeler High School on the school choice. I chose this method (school choice instead of employee choice) because I wanted the decision to send Jalyn to Wheeler to be only possible through the intervention of God. So when school choice opened I submitted an application just as any other Cobb County parent. The slots at Wheeler were limited and to our surprise Jalyn was selected to attend.”
Things went sour when McCreary was involved in an altercation involving two other students on January 26 in the school cafeteria.
“I received a phone call from Mr. Jones (Assistant Principal) and he described a fight and indicated that Jalyn had been involved. I was floored. Jalyn had never been in a fight and was still very new to the school. I asked him if he was okay and if I could speak to my son. At that time, I was placed on speaker phone and Jalyn described purchasing glasses from a student for twenty dollars and later being approached from behind by two boys he did not know while eating his lunch. His exact words were, ‘I was jumped momma.’”
Gordon felt like the best decision was to withdraw Jalyn after weeks of back and forth with the school district and reenrolled him to Kennesaw Mountain in February where he finished out the school year.
McCreary, back to his normal routine with lifelong friends, got back to the basketball court this summer with the Mustangs before receiving the call that he was ineligible and his hardship was denied. The GHSA ruled that he cannot play varsity this year and must spend his season on the junior varsity, potentially stymieing his development.
Both McCreary and Gordon would be the first to admit that attending Wheeler over Kennesaw Mountain was a poor choice, but the fact that he is ruled ineligible is not a good look for the GHSA.
With over 93 transfers collected for this upcoming season, it always seems that the GHSA puts the kibosh on the most logical movement.
- He still lives in the KMHS district
- His mother is a school counselor
- He withdrew after being the victim in a fracas
- He finished the 2015-16 school year at KMHS
It looks even worse that Wheeler has seven transfers in – from all over the country, some committing via YouTube – but when a player leaves the school, he isn’t cleared.
There needs to be a case by case basis where everything is taken into account.
The GHSA has become the Wild Wild West with player movement as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The fact that McCreary must sit out a year after emerging as a game-changing talent is a disappointing outcome for him, his family and Kennesaw Mountain.
Jalyn McCreary likely won’t play varsity basketball this year after Kennesaw Mountain, Gordon and everyone involved have exhausted all avenues of justice. McCreary isn’t the first and won’t be last student-athlete that gets the short end of the stick when it comes to GHSA rulings.
While it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel as far as eligibility goes, McCreary’s eye-opening play at the HoopSeen Fall Preview has opened doors for him moving forward. He landed a spot on the EYBL Southern Stampede’s 2019 team following the conclusion of the upcoming high school season.
In a matchup with one of the nation’s top ranked sophomores, Terry Armstrong (who moved into Wheeler from Michigan this summer), McCreary cemented his upside posting 23 points and nine rebounds. Whenever the lanky lefty is cleared to play, he will make an immediate statewide impact at Kennesaw Mountain and will become a name college coaches need to take notice of.
Hardship Letter sent to the GHSA:
May 18, 2016
To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing this letter of request for a hardship in order for my son, Jalyn McCreary, to be eligible to play varsity sports this upcoming 2016-17 school year at Kennesaw Mountain High School. Just to give you some history, I am a Cobb County employee and my son began his freshman year at Wheeler High School on the school choice. I chose this method (school choice instead of employee choice) because I wanted the decision to send Jalyn to Wheeler to be only possible through the intervention of God. So when school choice opened I submitted an application just as any other Cobb County parent. The slots at Wheeler were limited and to our surprise Jalyn was selected to attend. We were hesitant but as parents trusted that this must be what was intended for his future.
However a very unfortunate incident took place in January that changed our outlook on everything. The incident occurred on January 26th in the school cafeteria. I received a phone call from Mr. Jones (Assistant Principal) and he described a fight and indicated that Jalyn had been involved. I was floored. Jalyn had never been in a fight and was still very new to the school. I asked him if he was okay and if I could speak to my son. At that time, I was placed on speaker phone and Jalyn described purchasing glasses from a student for twenty dollars and later being approached from behind by two boys he did not know while eating his lunch. His exact words were, “I was jumped momma.” My initial response was to scold Jalyn for being disobedient. We have a rule in our home that there is absolutely no buying or trading with students at school. This is a common thing but something we did not want Jalyn to participate in because of the potential to cause confusion. It was then that I asked Mr. Jones if this was true and he said “yes, that is pretty accurate”. I asked if I needed to leave work and pick up Jalyn and I was told because of his calm demeanor he could stay and finish the day. However from my knowledge the other students were required to leave because of their actions in initiating this event. An hour later, I arrived to pick up Jalyn and he was leaving ISS. I approached the office and requested to see Mr. Jones. When he arrived I asked to view the video footage where my son was jumped. I was told that should not be a problem and that he would get back to me the following day. The next day, I was told I could not view the tape because of the rights of the other parents. I asked them to check with other parents and I was never contacted again about it until I reached out to higher authorities. I then requested to speak to Mr. Giles (school principal). I was later contacted by him and he begin to verbalize what he viewed on the tape. He said my son was seated and two gentlemen approached him. At this time, Jalyn was put in a headlock and glasses were ripped off of his face by an unknown student. Jalyn’s face was cut by this assault and his shirt was ripped. Understandably, he proceeded to stand up to defend himself. When he stood up, the second student shoved him to the ground from behind.
Ultimately, Jalyn was given the same consequences as the other students, I totally disagreed with this decision because he has attended Cobb County schools since 2nd grade and has never been suspended from school. Jalyn has always been described as the “gentle giant” by his teachers and is even still described as having a pretty impressive moral compass. He was a part of the Mustang Leadership Academy at Hayes Elementary and a part of the Amigos Leadership Academy at Pine Mountain Middle. For this reason, I was disappointed and decided to advocate for his reputation and most importantly his FUTURE. The outcome was grim and nothing changed as we approached day 6 of the suspension.
Following this event, I received contact from teachers and parents in the community expressing their regret that something like this happened to Jalyn. I notified the school about possible retaliation and accusations of gang affiliation too from individuals in the community. In the end, I was still denied the right to view the video of my son and the story changed from person to person each time it was recollected. There was very little consistency. However, the part that never wavered is that Jalyn was put in a headlock and violently shoved to the ground before he responded. In my opinion, this is a clear indicator of bullying and intimidation. As I described to administration, Jalyn is asthmatic and is medicated for this daily and if that headlock had gone wrong or been too long, we could be discussing much more than a fight.
Fearful of Jalyn being labeled, I continued to have email and phone communication with Mr. Ragsdale (CCSD Superintendent), Dr. Daniels (CCSD Assistant Superintendent), Dr. Giles, and Mr. Jones. I also refused to sign the write up of the disciplinary action because it indicated that Jalyn was involved in a fight. It never indicated that he was victim of a premeditated attack by these unknown students. I requested school mediation with the school counselor per my emails. I was told that boys will be boys and that we didn’t need to rehash something that the kids were already past. I was also told that none of this was an attempt to label my otherwise “good” student and that no one would look at Jalyn differently. Jalyn returned back to school for a little over a week with no issue and then we received a notification from the Cobb County Juvenile Courts. At this time, I felt the need to withdraw Jalyn from Wheeler and take him to his home school, Kennesaw Mountain. This decision was made because even through all of our communications, the school and CCSD in no way contacted me or revealed to me that they would be putting my son through this. They were very evasive about what occurred on that day and what would follow for my child. With our backs in a corner we hired an attorney and reported to court. At the court proceeding one of the other parents discussed watching the video footage with administration and clearly seeing that Jalyn was a victim. Her son even admitted to Jalyn paying for the glasses. At this time, the charges of affray and disruption of a public school were thrown out and the mom requested additional community service for her son and apologized profusely to Jalyn. The other student involved was given probation.
After hearing from her that the same administration that denied me seeing the footage sat down with her to view the footage, I knew I made the right choice by withdrawing him. Children die in schools all the time and I continuously expressed to all that I spoke to the need for my son to stand his ground and to be safe every day that he is outside of my care and protection. Sadly, the school policies are completely contradictory to the state law.
When I asked what Jalyn could have done differently, I was told he could have went and found a staff member to assist. I guess they were referring to the same staff members who were supervising this cafeteria when my son’s health and safety was initially put in danger. At this point other than loving the opportunity to participate in a basketball program with his AAU teammates there was nothing good I could attribute to his attendance at Wheeler. The most unfortunate thing is that Jalyn enjoyed playing on the freshman team there and had great stats on his first season of high school basketball. Another unfortunate thing is that because of the transition at the time he transitioned, Jalyn will now be required to attend summer school in order to have sophomore status next year.
Since enrolling at Kennesaw Mountain in February, Jalyn has made much better grades and adjusted well. I am sure the reason for this is that he has known most of the students since 2nd grade. The final step in putting this behind us would be for this hardship to be granted in order for him to go on as planned in the world of basketball.
Jalyn was not at all recruited by Kennesaw but has played basketball since he was 5 years old and it is a major part of our lives. Although, the fight was unfortunate we have reflected back on it with a different perspective. We feel that Jalyn needed to learn a lesson of resilience and overcoming adversity and he has done just that. Due to the fact that we have lived at the same address for several years and he has been a part of this community for so long, we are hopeful that he will be approved to play this next season and not have to suffer through another consequence for something out of his control. However we are prepared to find the “teachable moment” in this process as well, and if not in our favor we are still appreciative of the opportunity to share our story and be given consideration. Jalyn will not give up but continue with relentless tenacity to achieve his goals no matter the outcome.
My Sincere Thanks,