Scottsdale girl’s hoop dreams dashed

She’s only 17 and still in high school, but Noell Kellers is getting her first lesson in Bureaucracy 101, her parents say.

All the girl wants to do is play basketball and get her shot at a college scholarship. But those dreams seem to be no more as the state regulatory body that governs high school athletics has forbidden her from playing her senior year.

The reason she and her parents, Charles and Diane Kellers, said the Arizona Interscholastic Association banned her from play in the 2014-15 season is because she broke some fuzzy, little-known rules while attempting to transfer from Desert Mountain High School to Horizon High School after her parents divorced and moved to different areas of Scottsdale over the summer.

Kellers moved into her mother’s new home, which is closer to Horizon. She played one scrimmage game over the summer with the Horizon Huskies while still technically enrolled at Desert Mountain, which is not allowed. That and allegations from Desert Mountain’s athletic director, Kristopher Alexander, that she was switching school to join a better team, are among the reasons the AIA to chose to bar her from play. She appealed the decision, but that appeal was denied.

“She got railroaded,” said Denise Keller. “I was at both of those hearings and it was bad.”

Now, several potential college basketball programs that had expressed interest in Kellers’ abilities will have nothing to judge them by since she can’t play her last year of high school.

DePaul University in Chicago was one of them.

“It was hand-written,” Noell said wistfully. “Honestly, for just a program to spend the time to hand-write a letter … it just felt really good.”

For Noell, basketball represented more than the thrill of competition and glory of winning. It meant a chance for a free education.

She denies transferring to Horizon to be with a better team, saying the school and the coach told her playing one game over the summer was allowed.

“In no way would I ever try and leave a team for selfish purposes, to go and participate in another team for my own benefit. It’s not what I believe in.”

“It hurts, honestly,” she continued. “I listened to a school and I listened to my coach. I had no idea about any of these rules.”

According to the family Alexander made claims to board that the family and Noell’s previous coach said were not true.

They include accusations that questioned the coaching philosophy and expressed how disappointed she was in the team’s performance. The former coach, Frank Mattucci, wrote a letter supporting Kellers, however. He also strongly urged the committee grant her appeal.

The family said Alexander also claimed that Noell’s father, Charles Kellers, told him that she wanted to play for a better school, a claim he also denied.

“I never made those statements to him,” he said. “I’ve never met the man.”

“(Alexander) made statements under oath, under penalty of perjury not just about myself but about Denise and about Noell’s former coach,” he continued. “So far, two of those people have raise their hands and said ‘foul – those statements weren’t true.’ if what I’ve been told he said about me was actually said, those statements weren’t true. So, sooner or later when everyone’s raising their hand and yelling foul, you have to look at the source.”

Alexander denies he was being dishonest, saying comments made by the father were relayed through an assistant and he interpreted them to mean that the transfer was athletically motivated-at least in part.

Alexander said as far as he’s concerned, the board made the right decision. He said he firmly believes she wanted to transfer schools because she felt the Horizon team was better.

It’s not clear what exactly was stated in the hearings as the AIA Associate Executive Director Chuck Schmidt, said they do not release transcripts to the public, but only the parents.

Charles and Denise said they are still waiting to get their copies.

“It’s disappointing,” Charles said. “Noell has thousands of hours invested in her basketball, and to take away her senior year on a technicality – it’s disappointing.”

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