Krop's basketball coach skirts recruiting rules

Bean sprout teenaged basketball players from Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High, all wearing purple tracksuits, filled two rows of wooden pews in a downtown courtroom last Wednesday afternoon. Their parents and girlfriends — along with a few local politicians angling for publicity — filled the rest of the hall.

The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) appeared to have only one representative in court: a somber lawyer who spoke in haughty legalese.

Anybody who'd ever watched a Disney movie could've identified the good guys there. And when Judge Spencer Eig ruled that Krop, Florida's number-one-ranked buckets team, should be allowed to participate in the playoffs despite the opposition of the sport's governing body, the crowd burst into hooting applause.

Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote had editorialized that the FHSAA had "overreacted with the harshest possible punishment" in disqualifying Bahamian guard Brian Delancy because of his failure to file immigration paperwork, which forced the team to forfeit every game in which he had played. Virtually every local news outlet, from NBC Miami (Channel 6) to WSVN-TV (Channel 7), treated the judge's ruling as a feel-good story.

Except for this one. Because as New Times has discovered, Delancy's immigration paperwork is the least of his eligibility concerns. The boy's coach, Marcos "Shakey" Rodriguez is notorious for skirting recruiting rules. Delancy's legal guardian, Bernard Wright, coached a team stripped of its state championship for rampant cheating. And the 19-year-old, it appears, doesn't even reside in the school's district. His address, as listed in school records before the eligibility scandal broke, doesn't exist. Since then, the records have apparently been changed. And it seems he doesn't live at the new address.

"We tried to get the school to tell us where he lives under oath and it took us asking three times," comments FHSAA executive director Dr. Roger Dearing. "Finally, they said he lives primarily with his mother... There's something going on with this kid."

But local newspapers have reported Delancy's mom lives in the Bahamas. "That's another good question," said Dearing. "Apparently, she was living here, but she moved to the Bahamas. All I can say is it's a good question."

Shakey Rodriguez, who rakes in $76,750 annually to coach winners, isn't interested in clearing the confusion. "I got nothing to say to you, dude," intoned the stocky coach, sporting his trademark look of sunglasses perched above combed-down bangs, when confronted at the court hearing. "Leave it at that."

Krop athletic director Michael Kypriss also shut down questioning. "Come on man, be happy for us!" he boomed when asked about the living situation after the hearing, shrouding Delancy with his large frame and loping away from the courthouse. "We met all the eligibility requirements! Come on man, I thought you'd be happy for us!"

Delancy's guardian Bernard Wright, the most important actor in this drama, is less sanguine. Wright is a notorious youth basketball recruiter with a criminal record who was the assistant coach of the 1998 Miami High team that included Heat stalwart Udonis Haslem and was stripped of a state championship amid recruiting violations. "Don't you ever fucking call this number again," he barks when reached by a reporter. "You're a fucking scumbag, and if I ever fucking catch you near me, you're going to regret it. You better lose this fucking number."

This publication's history with local youth-ball legend Shakey Rodriguez — his high school win-loss record (587-93) is believed to be the best in the county — and his cronies dates back to the mid-'90s. Rodriguez, who earned his nickname, he likes to say, because he "can never stand still," won five championships in 13 years as head coach of the juggernaut Miami High Stingarees, a squad that always seemed stocked with elite ballplayers from around the country. Rodriguez was often accused of breaking recruiting rules, but he was never caught. Wright was his assistant coach.

In 1995, Rodriguez took over Florida International University's basketball team. Frank Martin became the new Miami High coach. Wright stayed on to become Martin's assistant coach.

Three years later, Miami High won the 1998 state championship with perhaps its most formidable team ever, featuring preternaturally-talented teens such as Haslem and current Los Angeles Laker Steve Blake. But the title was tainted.

A New Times investigation, published one week before that year's title game, exposed that five of the team's players — including Haslem and Blake — were registered as living with coaches or boosters, in violation of state recruitment rules. Player residence records in the school district database had bogus addresses, which were mysteriously changed several times when a reporter began sniffing around. Then FHSAA commissioner Ron Davis called Miami High's manipulation of residency records the most "blatant violation of FHSAA rules against recruiting that I have encountered." The association stripped the team of its title and barred it from playing the next year.

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Gus Garcia-Roberts

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