Jahmir Harris is 18 years old in his senior year at Fordham Prep in New York City, but the basketball player’s future took a turn for the worse a year ago.
Last year, Harris was widely considered the best player on the team and helped lead the Fordham Prep men’s basketball team to a New York City Catholic League championship.
That same league has produced all-time greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, five-time NBA All-Star Chris Mullin and current Charlotte Hornets point guard and Bronx native Kemba Walker.
Harris, a power forward, has a unique combination of size and athleticism. He can easily grab ten-plus rebounds on a given night and can go out and shoot from beyond the 3-point arc.
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But this season, Harris has become simply a bystander and cheerleader for his teammates after learning he couldn’t suit up. Like many other players, Harris’ high school basketball playing days came to an abrupt halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
His career was interrupted for a second time in November, just before the season began, when he was informed that he was no longer eligible to take the court.
«Everyone said they would help me and ‘we’ll keep doing this,’ and I’ll be able to play in college.» They will find a way,» Harris told The New York Times. «But when they told me it was over, that’s when I broke down and started crying.»
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Now, as Harris enters his final months of high school, it’s unclear if he’ll be able to live out his lifelong dreams of playing college basketball.
The NCAA allowed college athletes affected by COVID-related restrictions to take advantage of an extra year of eligibility, but some high school leagues chose not to enact similar policies.
Harris became one of the students affected by his high school’s league decision. During the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, Harris was in her sophomore year at a public high school in Ossining, New York, learning in a virtual classroom.
Sensing that Harris was not adjusting well, her parents applied to a private school, Fordham Prep. On the application, her parents, Tosha and Kenroy, mentioned that her son needed «a structured educational program.» Harris was soon accepted and repeated his sophomore year at Fordham Prep.
He continued to participate in remote learning after he was first accepted to Fordham Prep because his parents were considered to be at high risk for the coronavirus due to pre-existing medical conditions.
The basketball season was canceled during Harris’ sophomore year at Fordham Prep due to the city’s COVID-19 restrictions. For years, AAU has served as a popular supplement to high school basketball leagues, but that circuit took a hit at the start of the pandemic.
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Several months later, in December 2020, Harris’s mother, Tosha, sent a letter to the Catholic High School Athletic Association requesting that her son be allowed to play in his junior and senior seasons. Playing two more seasons at the high school level meant Harris would have to be granted a fifth year of eligibility.
After Harris and her parents received their shots in 2021, she began preparing to go to the Fordham Prep campus for classes and to play basketball.
He would soon be named the starter for the 2021-22 season. Several Division I college programs approached Harris and asked her to attend summer camps.
Meanwhile, Tosha was routinely following up with Fordham Prep athletic officials to see if her son’s request to play two more years was approved.
A New York state rule grants students «four consecutive seasons of athletic eligibility,» but sports officials said there was some informal talk about making an exception for Harris because of his «unique family medical circumstances.»
In June 2022, the school said it learned Harris would not be allowed to play during his senior season, but Harris still participated in preseason workouts while the appeals process unfolded.
Kevin Pigott, CHSAA president for the Archdiocese of New York, said he told school officials Harris would not be eligible to play as a senior when his transfer paperwork was initially filed. Pigott also mentioned that the CHSAA told athletic directors that an extension would not be granted due to a season lost due to COVID-19.
Pigott said he was part of the five-person committee that reviewed Harris’s appeal and unanimously decided to deny the eligibility extension. Fordham Prep then made its final appeal in September.
Fox News Digital contacted Pigott about the decision to deny Harris’s appeal.
«The decision of the CHSAA Archdiocesan Children’s Executive Committee and the Archdiocesan Appeals Committee was based on New York State law,» Pigott said in an emailed response. «Jahmir’s fifth year of school was chosen voluntarily by his parents. His situation did not require that he attend school for one or more additional semesters. Therefore, his request for an athletic fifth year was not necessitated by the need for a fifth academic year -year as prescribed in Rule 135.4».
Meanwhile, Harris thrived in the classroom her senior year, earning a 3.9 GPA. In November, nearing the start of the season, Tosha decided to ask team coach Brian Downey and Fordham Prep athletic director Anthony Kurtin about the situation.
Kurtin called Tosha and told her the fate of Harris. She shared her decision with her son while he was riding the train home from school.
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Harris decided to keep practicing with his team. Fordham Prep even covered the cost of his trip with the team to an out-of-state basketball tournament. He played on an AAU travel team last summer and received an offer to play for a charter school. He ultimately turned down the offer and continued to take classes at Fordham Prep.
As Fordham Prep begins its defense of a city championship in the Catholic League playoffs, Harris will continue to watch from the sidelines as her family is left with a long list of unanswered questions.