Society

Sudanese Man, 30, Poses As High School Basketball Star

| by Karin Sun
Jonathon Nicola (center) with teammates at Catholic Central High SchoolJonathon Nicola (center) with teammates at Catholic Central High School

Canadian immigration officials arrested a 30-year-old Sudanese man whom they believe has been posing as a 17-year-old high school student for the past six months.

On April 20, border officials announced that Jonathon Nicola, 30, was arrested for allegedly violating Canada's Immigration Refugee Protection Act, the Windsor Star reports. He is currently being held at South West Detention Center in Windsor, Canada.

Nicola, a Sudanese immigrant, arrived in Canada on a student visa in November 2015. Since his arrival, he has reportedly been posing as an eleventh grade student at Catholic Central High School in Windsor, where he became a star player on the Comets senior boys' basketball team.

The 6-foot-9, 202-pound man reportedly competed against teenaged players nearly half his age for months. During that time, he stayed in the home of Catholic Central head coach Pete Cusumano through the Canada Homestay program, which finds local homes for foreign students.

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In January, Cusumano told the Windsor Star that he believed Nicola had a shot at the NBA. The local basketball group Windsor Hoops posted a "prospect video" advertising Nicola's skills, including footage of the man shooting hoops and running drills in the school gym.

Although authorities did not elaborate on what exactly Nicola is accused of doing, a review board on April 19 determined that he should remain in detention. Another hearing is scheduled for the week of April 25.

In a January interview, Nicola said it took him six months to acquire a Canadian visa and leave his war-torn home country of South Sudan for a better life in Windsor.

"A few of my friends know of my background, how we live over there," he said at that time. "I don't know how many of them have a clue of how it is in Africa."

The Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board declined to comment on Nicola's specific case but maintained that the school followed protocol while admitting the 30-year-old man as a student.

"Generally I can tell you that we have a system of checks and balances in place that whenever international students are coming into any of our schools, we make sure that they have all of the necessary government documentation that they require in order to be in one of our schools," Stephen Fields, a spokesman for the school board, said.

" … [G]enerally 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 added.

He did not comment on whether the board plans to notify parents and students of the situation.

This is not the first time an immigrant has posed as a teenager and played on a high school basketball team.

In 2011, 23-year-old Haitian immigrant Guerdwich Montimere was sentenced to three years in prison for posing as a 17-year-old star basketball player at Permian High School in Odessa, Texas, in 2010, Yahoo News reported at the time.

He was charged with identity theft as well as sexual assault stemming from his relationship with a 15-year-old student at the school. 

Sources: Windsor Star, Yahoo News / Photo Credit: Nick Brancaccio/Windsor Star

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