The four boys basketball players who transferred to Simeon this season were far from the only student-athletes to forge a path to a new school, but their moves have not come without scrutiny.
According to Chicago Public Schools administrators, the Chicago Public League processed approximately 180 athletic transfers this school year, including an estimated 50 total boys and girls basketball players. At Simeon, Russell Woods and Sean Moore, both seniors, came from Leo, junior Jaycee Hillsman from Champaign St. Thomas More and junior Donte Ingram from Danville.
CPS handles rulings on transfers in the Public League, while the Illinois High School Association oversees the rest of the state. The Public League declared the four Simeon players eligible before the season, but the IHSA confirmed Friday it is reviewing the transfer of one of those players after an official inquiry was made by his former school. Sources told the Tribune that player is Ingram, a 6-foot-5 guard who has become a key reserve for the Wolverines.
Leo president Dan McGrath told the Tribune his school also expressed concerns about the transfers of Woods and Moore in a letter to the IHSA and CPS, but he still signed off on their moves.
"Transferring didn't start when I started coaching," said Simeon coach Robert Smith, who declined to comment about Ingram. "I don't have a problem with it. These are teenagers, and sometimes the parents just don't know. What they think is good (at first) might not be good."
CPS administrators said that among the CPS transfers this school year, an estimated 30-40 percent were declared ineligible, including two groups of football players who transferred en masse. The IHSA said its ruling on the Simeon player could come as soon as this week.
If a school does not concur with a transfer, the IHSA or the Public League (if it is to Chicago Public Schools) will investigate the evidence provided and make a ruling.
Danville athletic director B.J. Luke said his school did not concur with Ingram's transfer.
'The level playing field'
Luke, formerly the football coach at Waubonsie Valley, declined to comment about Ingram's case specifically, but he spoke generally about transfers, which he classified as a problem in Illinois.
He said if parents decide to move into a new school district, even for athletic reasons, he doesn't have a problem if they abide by the rules and the former school signs off on it.
He does have a problem with schools that try to recruit his teams' players.
"We're going to be vigilant when it comes to protecting our kids and our school and the ability to play on the level playing field," Luke said. "If (Chicago-area schools) want to cannibalize each other and have players change from school to school to school, I don't care.
"We're excited about playing those guys, but don't come down and poach our kids is the thing we want to make sure."
Third-ranked Simeon isn't the only high-profile program to receive transfers. No. 1 Young welcomed guards L.J. Peak and Ausar Madison, and No. 2 Morgan Park received Kyle Davis and Markee Williams. But the moves to Simeon might create more buzz than those to programs without its history of success.
'We don't have to recruit'
McGrath said in an ESPNChicago.com story in August he felt Woods and Moore were recruited by Simeon, a violation of IHSA and CPS rules.
"We could have contested it, could have dragged it out," McGrath said. "We didn't want to prevent them from playing their senior year. I wish them well and let it go at that."
McGrath said he still doesn't know why Woods and Moore left Leo, but he has decided to drop the issue.
"I had 50 conversations with Sean Moore's dad when he was here, and he didn't have the decency to return my call to tell me why they're leaving," McGrath said.