Canadian high school basketball player said he was 17. Authorities say he’s 30.

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In November, Jonathon Nicola arrived in Ontario as a refugee from war-ravaged South Sudan. At 17 years old and standing 6 feet 9, he seemed a natural fit for the boys’ basketball team at Catholic Central High in Windsor. He even lived with Pete Cusumano, the team’s basketball coach who said Nicola possibly could play in the NBA some day.

That’s probably not going to happen. On Wednesday, the Canada Border Services Agency announced it had arrested Nicola for a violation of the country’s Immigration Refugee Protection Act. The reason: he’s believed to be 30 years old, not 17.

According to the Windsor Star’s Trevor Wilhelm, who broke the story, Nicola entered the country through a program called Canada Homestay, which finds homes for foreign students, and was living there under a student visa. But on Tuesday, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board decided that Nicola should remain in custody, with another hearing next week.

Cusumano told Wilhelm he wasn’t allowed to talk about Nicola, and school officials were similarly mum on the matter. That wasn’t the case in January, when Cusumano raved about Nicola’s basketball skills to the Star’s Bob Duff, even though his newest player, who came to school as an 11th-grader, had spent only a few months playing organized basketball.

“I think this kid will have a chance at the NBA,” Cusumano said. “I have never said that about any kid from Windsor.”

Duff related the story of how Nicola came to Canada from South Sudan, the home of former NBA star Manute Bol. Another Sudanese player, Deng D’Awol, who had played college basketball in the United States, spotted Nicola while coaching in South Sudan. D’Awol had played youth basketball in Canada with the son of Patricia Marsden-Dole, a former Canadian ambassador to Tanzania, so they turned to her for help. Eventually Nicola found his way to Windsor and Cusumano, who had submitted Nicola’s application to Canada Homestay.

“If I had the opportunity to go to the NBA I would definitely go,” Nicola admitted. “My big deal is the education. This is my main thing.”

The Detroit Pistons, who play just across the river from Windsor, donated a bunch of gear for Nicola to use, including Size 16 shoes.

Nicola’s stats are hard to come by. According to the Windor Star, he scored 10 points against St. Anne in December. He scored 12 points in a loss to St. Anne in the ACC senior boys’ basketball playoffs in February, according to one box score. He scored nine points in a loss to Holy Names High School in February, according to another.

“He’s never played organized ball,” Cusumano told Duff. “He’s just played pickup ball. He’s not used to structure, so everything’s new to him.”

source: Washington Post

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