PORTLAND — Cheverus’ senior standout point guard Indiana Faithfull, the player with the colorful name and dazzling game, has been declared ineligible for the remainder of the boys’ basketball season.
The shocking news, which has enormous repercussions for the local hoops scene and the upcoming tournament, came Friday when Cheverus athletic director Gary Hoyt announced in a press release that Faithfull had maximized his eligibility as a student-athlete according to Maine Principals’ Association eight consecutive semester rules.
Faithfull, who spent his freshman year in his native Australia, had three semesters under his belt when he came to Cheverus as a sophomore in the fall of 2007. He began his freshman year in January 2006, according to the Australian academic calendar. As a result, he finished his eighth consecutive eligible semester on Jan. 22.
“The situation is an unintended consequence of a well-intentioned rule that is having a significant impact on the eligibility of southern hemisphere exchange students,” said Hoyt. “Indiana has been an exemplary student-athlete and is an innocent victim of the unintended consequence of this rule.”
Stags coach Bob Brown discovered the issue while researching Faithfull’s transcripts and the school self-reported.
“(Cheverus) admitted him as a sophomore and there wasn’t any urgency,” Brown said. “I get my list and that’s my team and away we go. I never check eligibility. I’ve been getting calls from college coaches. One coach in particular wanted to know his grades. They gave me his transcripts. I looked at it and started to count and thought, ‘oh no!’
“This school stands for something, I stand for something and so does Indy,” Brown added. “I went to Gary to make sure I was right. That’s how it all transpired.”
MPA Executive Director Dick Durost praised Cheverus for its handling of the situation.
“Cheverus High School, and in particular principal John Mullen and athletic administrator Gary Hoyt, are to be commended for their swift investigation and action concerning the student-athlete’s completion of athletic eligibility,” Durost said. “As soon as they determined that there might be an issue, they were in immediate contact with the MPA office, asking for clarification of the MPA eight semester rule and implementing that rule without complaint. Their approach was exactly what we would hope and expect from every MPA member school.”
Faithfull has been the Stags starting point guard for three years, leading them to the 2008 Class A title as a sophomore and undefeated regular seasons last winter and so far this season.
Faithfull has done it all, limiting his scoring to keep his talented teammates involved, while racking up assists, steals and rebounds. He was the captain of a potent offense and also the engine behind a smothering matchup zone defense.
“He stepped in and he started for me for three years,” Brown said. “As a sophomore, he was the starting point guard. He struggled with the complexities of what we do. About three games before the end of the season, I put him back in and he led us to a state championship. The next year, we were undefeated. With him on the floor, we’ve lost four games in three years. The ball’s always in his hands. More than anything, he doesn’t care about points. It’s all for the team. He’s a real throwback kid. He plays hard.”
Brown said that while Faithfull was devastated by the situation he will remain an integral part of the team for the stretch run.
“He’s taking it hard, but he’s taking it with class,” Brown said. “He really is a classy kid. He’s handling it unbelievably. He helped carry this program for three years. He always deflected praise. He leads the kids in the huddle, brings water. He still leads when he’s around.”
Faithfull hasn’t decided on his plans for next year, but has a lot of options.
“Prep school’s a good avenue, but if a good fit pops up for him, so be it,” Brown said. “He wants to be a Division I player.”
“It’s too bad, but I’m sure he still has a lot of great things ahead of him,” said Scarborough coach Joe Johnson.
Still a force
The Western A landscape has certainly changed dramatically, but anyone writing Cheverus off is forgetting how strong this program is.
If there’s any silver lining to this story it’s that Brown now has the opportunity to get his kids to refocus and continue working hard, a message that’s tough to deliver when you’re pummeling every foe by 20, 30 points or more.
Saturday, with Faithfull on the bench, the Stags drubbed visiting Sanford, 74-31, (they led 19-0 after one period and 38-8 at the half) behind 13 points from senior Kyle Randall, 10 from junior Alex Furness and six from new point guard, junior Joe Savino.
“The guys have really picked it up,” Brown said. “Savino has come in and really done a nice job. It’s funny. I’ve had very little confidence in him, but I put him in against Biddeford and we clicked. Alex was totally out of position. Everyone stays the same and he’ll pop in. I’ll play Alex a little like I did with Indy. I think the kids will use this and step up on their own. Kyle Randall has jumped into a super-leadership type of role. We can’t change, but kids who aren’t rebounding like they should, now they have to. We’ll have to run plays the way we’re supposed to.”
Cheverus improved to 16-0 with the win and figures to be the No. 1 seed for the Western A tournament yet again. Now, however, the Stags aren’t the heavy favorite.
“I think what it does going into the tournament, everyone will say it’s Westbrook and Cheverus,” Brown said, alluding to a 15-1 Blue Blazes squad that gave the Stags their only close game to date, a 50-48 Cheverus triumph (on Faithfull’s game-winner) back on Dec. 8.
“What I would say is that it really brings us back to the back. All the teams we beat by 20 and 30 now think they can stay with us and beat us. We have to rally and say no. Providing (senior Dominic) Borelli’s healthy, I’d say Westbrook’s the favorite now. It’s really a strange year. Borelli’s injured and Indy and (South Portland senior star Keegan Hyland, who’s missed the whole season with a stress fracture in his pelvis) are gone. It’s too bad for Western Maine basketball. I’d say those three would have been the finalists for Mr. Maine Basketball.”
Whatever happens, the next few weeks will be can’t-miss theater.
“I feel bad for Indiana,” said South Portland coach Phil Conley. “He’s a great player and a great kid. Cheverus will still be a very good team. They’re still very well coached and still have great ballplayers.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Local boys’ basketball fans have seen the last of Cheverus senior Indiana Faithfull starring on the hardwood.