By LARRY VAUGHT
Let me admit that I am still a bit perplexed why on Dec. 20 that sophomore Zion Harmon is still ineligible to play at Marshall County after transferring from Adair County. His father, Mike, has had to seek an injunction that will be heard in federal court in early January hoping to finally got his son eligible to play.
Harmon played at Bowling Green as an eighth grader and helped the Purples win the state title. He transferred to Adair County last season and led the state in scoring — but his team did not make the state tourney. Now he’s at Marshall County but the Kentucky High School Athletic Association ruled it was a transfer for athletic reasons and ruled him ineligible.
I could have called Mike Harmon for his side of the story — remember Zion Harmon told me when I was at the Marshall County Hoopfest that he had done “nothing wrong” — so I just decided to share my opinion knowing that Mike Harmon has a job where he can work from any place and has had a legal change of residence to Marshall County.
I’m told a big issue with Zion’s eligibility is what his father told the Paducah Son’s Edward Marlowe this summer. He basically said the family was interested in making another move and told him Marshall County, McCracken County and Scott County were possible landing spots even though he had been contacted by several prep schools.
Mike Harmon told Josh Moore of the Lexington Herald-Leader that he wanted his son to finish his career in Kentucky because during the offseason he plays at the “highest” level nationally, including USA Basketball.
“I think from a school point of view, I want him to always be in situation where he’s at a natural growth development point as well as a normal high school setting,” Mike Harmon told Moore.
Zion Harmon averaged 32.7 points per game last season and scored 1,014 points. He has 1,634 career points.
But here’s what Mike Harmon told me several months ago when the family decided to move to Marshall County.
“We didn’t choose Marshall because it was the best basketball opportunity out there,” Mike Harmon said. “We chose it for social, educational, leadership reasons. It’s going to help him in so many ways. As a parent, if you are trying to prepare your child for what lies ahead of them, why would you not choose the best place for him to do that. The parent is the one who knows what his best for his or her child. No one else can really know that.”
Zion Harmon is an honor student who hopes to graduate a year early. His father felt Marshall offered classes and educational opportunities that would better prepare him for college academically.
Harmon also went to high school with a low percentage of African-Americans in the student body or in the county overall. Marshall has also never had an African-American Division I signee.
He’s also went to a school that found itself in the national spotlight last January when two students were killed and 18 injured in a shooting at the school.
Go back to when Harmon transferred to Adair County — and no one protested or questioned the move. His father said he wanted his son at a place free of distractions.
“He has an opportunity to go to Adair and lead a team from nothing to something. With all his accomplishments and talent, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity for him to do something special,” Mike Harmon said about the upcoming move to Adair.
The father said the year at Adair was “incredible” but that “each year is a different challenge” and felt his son need a new challenge — and I took that to mean academically, socially as well as athletically.
Also take another look back at why Mike Harmon told me he didn’t want his son to play at a prep school where he would face top-level talent nationally, something a player ranked in the top 10 nationally in his recruiting class certainly could have handled.
“He likes playing in Kentucky. I wanted him to stay in a school system so he can have a normal school life. Whatever God has planned for him, we know it will just make him stronger but we think this move to Marshall County is a great fit for him and will present challenges that give him unique opportunities,” Mike Harmon told me during the summer.
And I can’t begin to recall all the athletes in my 40-plus years covering sports who have openly talked about new athletic opportunities when they transferred. I remember very few star athletes doing what Harmon did as a freshman — going from a state championship team to one that didn’t win a region title. Many of the state’s top teams have transfers arrive to join winning teams — in almost every sport. But if the family makes a legitimate move and change of residence, the athlete gets to play.
And here’s one more reason I don’t understand the Harmon dilemma. Dre Boyd transferred from Bowling Green to Adair County for his sophomore season and averaged a double-double playing with Harmon. This year he transferred to Warren Central — and he’s eligible. Warren Central, a state tourney semifinalist last year, also added transfers Kobie Brent from Glasgow and Geovonni Floyd from Greenwood from what I read.
Senior Isaiah Allen transferred to Scott County from Dunbar and again reports indicated he also played previously at Tates Creek.
I have no problem with any of those moves — and neither did the KHSAA. And I could list more. But Harmon transfers and it’s only for “basketball” reasons. That the part that puzzles me, especially if the ineligibility is being blamed on Harmon’s father for admitting this summer the family was making a move and considering what options should be best for them for a variety of reasons.