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(Courtesy photo) | Diann Harries Nathan Harries plays at Centennial High School in Georgia.
Mormon NCAA basketball player loses year of eligibility for church ball
College basketball » Mormon rec league leads to lost eligibility.
First Published Nov 06 2013 01:49 pm • Last Updated Nov 07 2013 07:28 am

The NCAA apparently has a loose definition of the word "organized."

Colgate freshman shooting guard Nathan Harries, recently back from an LDS Church mission, thought nothing of playing three games on a laid-back church-league basketball team for two days this summer. The NCAA thought differently.

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The Alpharetta, Ga., native disclosed his participation on a survey from the NCAA and received an email in early August informing him that he would lose one of his four years of athletic eligibility for violating an NCAA rule.

He showed his parents the email in August.

"He was very upset," said his father, Michael Harries. "He thought it was crazy. And then he calmed down."

Colgate tried to issue a waiver on his behalf, but it was denied. The school recently followed that with an appeal to the NCAA, and the team says it will not comment until the appeal has been processed.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that in July, Nathan Harries got a call from a family friend asking if he’d fill in during a Dunwoody Baptist Church basketball league. He played three games in two days. High school teacher Matt Adams told the Journal-Constitution that the league includes teams named "Net Profit" and "Make It Drizzle," and some teams don’t even have matching uniforms.

"It’s just an old men’s league," Michael Harries told The Tribune by phone Wednesday. "It’s just a recreational C-level league."

Harries says his son was a standout high school student and an Eagle Scout who played all four years on Centennial High School’s varsity basketball team. He served his two-year mission in Raleigh, N.C. According to Rivals.com, Harries was recruited by a handful of colleges in 2011, including BYU and Utah, although his only other formal offer was from Georgia State.

NCAA rules prohibit athletes from organized competition in the period between high school and their college enrollment. As he understands it, Michael Harries says the purpose of the NCAA rule is to prevent recent high school graduates from gaining an unfair advantage against their competition — benefiting from the help of trainers or coaches during a dead time for college athletes. Or at least, most college athletes. Michael Harries says the rule does not apply to those on national junior development teams, like Canadian Colgate teammate Murphy Burnatowski. If the NCAA denies Colgate’s appeal, Harries will sit out this season as a redshirt freshman and then be eligible for three more years.

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"In Nathan’s case, it’s an unintended consequence of the law," he said. "It’s frustrating [that it happened] to a young man who has dedicated himself to doing the right thing. It doesn’t seem right."

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