In a stunning development, a star center for a Canadian high school basketball team was exposed as a 30-year-old African refugee, leading to his being detained in connection with the Immigration Refugee Protection Act.
According to the Windsor Star, 30-year-old South Sudanese native Jonathan Nicola was a star center for the Central Catholic Comets throughout the 2015-16 season. The 6-foot-9, 202-pounder spent the previous months during the academic year living with Central Catholic basketball coach Pete Cusumano as part of the Canada Homestay program while he lived in the country on a student visa.
That visa is now likely to be terminated as a result of the large discrepancy in Nicola’s age. While he has been presenting himself as a 17-year-old, the Canada Border Services Agency has obtained evidence that purports to show Nicola is actually 30 years old, making him a full 12 years older than the eldest competitors on most of the teams he played against during the 2015-16 season.
While Canadian officials have been unable to provide any specifics about the case due to privacy concerns, Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board spokesman Stephen Fields insists that students within the district were never at risk due to a fellow student.
“Generally speaking, if we felt at any time that there is any kind of threat to any of our students at any of our schools, then we would act appropriately,” Fields told the Star.
While Nicola’s case is a stunning one, it is certainly not the first of an older athlete masquerading as a teenager to continue competing in high school athletics. Notably, in 2009, 21-year-old Haitian immigrant Guerdwich Montimere claimed to be a 17-year-old named Jerry Joseph to maintain eligibility and compete in high school basketball for Odessa Permian in Texas. He was later sentenced to three years in prison in connection with charges of identity theft and sexual assault, the latter charge related to a relationship he developed with a 15-year-old fellow student while on campus.
Nicola remains in custody at the South West Detention Centre awaiting further hearings on his immigration status.