MIDVALE — Eric Mika will not play basketball at Lone Peak High school this winter despite his decision to transfer to the 5A school in June.
A three-member panel of the Utah High School Activities Association's executive committee voted unanimously to deny the 6-foot-7 junior athletic eligibility under the new hardship rule. Mika transferred from Waterford, a private 2A school in Draper, to his home boundary school, Lone Peak at the end of the school year.
At issue was why he transferred from the small, private school to one of the state's largest schools, but also the home of the defending 5A state champions in boys basketball.
Ron and Sue Mika told the panel Wednesday morning that they decided to move their son because of the time involved in commuting, practicing and trying to accommodate an early morning seminary class.
"It was really to remove a 12-15 hour-long day," said Ron Mika. "Many other factors led to a very lengthy day for him."
Because both girls and boys share the gym at Waterford, sometimes practices were not held right after school, which led to an even longer day. Mika averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Ravens last season.
In explaining why the family opted to move Eric to public school, Ron said, "Our concern for his safety, our concern for his health, our concern for his overall well-being participating in a 12 to 15 hour day … for a teenager that's a heavy burden."
The homework load was lighter, the commute significantly shorter and practices for basketball would be held right after school.
Eric Mika was asked directly if family friend Marty Haws suggested or influenced him in any way to choose Lone Peak over Waterford.
Eric Mika, his parents and Haws all denied that he had anything to do with the transfer.
"Was there pressure, an invitation, a suggestion?" asked UHSAA attorney Mark Van Wagoner, who said the record needed to be clear.
Eric Mika said no.
"No one ever pressured me or told me we would be unbeatable if I went there," Eric said.
Questions were specifically raised about Haws, who has a son playing for the Knights. Haws has an AAU team on which Mika played during the summer, but after he had enrolled at Lone Peak. Prior to enrolling at Lone Peak, Mika played for Pump-N-Run, an AAU team with which Haws has no association.
Ron Mika said the family consulted with Haws, who is a friend, when they chose an AAU team, but opted to have Eric play for Pump-N-Run during spring tournaments as they were more compatible with the family's schedule.
Eric Mika did however end up playing for Haws' AAU team after he enrolled in Lone Peak at the conclusion of his sophomore year at Waterford.
The family denied any suggestion or influence by Haws or anyone else at Lone Peak.
Haws and a Lone Peak assistant principal both denied the program does any kind of recruiting.
"We're really proud of the way we do things at Lone Peak," said Haws. "It's not one of those things where we feel like we have to go out and do some of the things that you're suggesting. We're proud of what we've done and we take a certain pride in that we haven't had to go out and do that. These are our own kids."
Haws went on to say he wouldn't want the "pressure" of having a player transfer and then have a disappointing experience.
Van Wagoner said there had been rumors and allegations, but no evidence offered, so he felt it best to get the record as clear as possible.
The Mikas maintained that they were applying for a hardship waiver because the time involved in staying at Waterford was too burdensome for the 16-year-old.
Despite the panel's decision, Ron Mika said the transfer had been beneficial to Eric.
"We've already made the adjustment to fix a problem that needed to be fixed," Ron Mika said.
When contacted after the panel's decision, Ron Mika said he was unsure what their options were.
"I don't know what the options are or what we'll do," he said.
There were four other hearings Wednesday morning and only one student athlete was granted eligibility.
Riley Otteson was allowed to transfer from Lone Peak to American Fork. Otteson is a pitcher for the varsity baseball team, and was granted eligibility under the hardship rule.
Otteson had been living with his grandmother, who resides in Lone Peak's boundaries, since eighth grade after his parents were arrested for dealing drugs. His mother asked her mother to take custody of Otteson while she and her husband dealt with criminal ramifications, as well as the other aspects of turning their lives around.
"It's a bad tale," said attorney Troy Walker. "They were bad people; they were doing bad stuff; they were involved in drugs at every level."
But in 2004, the couple married and began to put their lives on the right track, he said.
"These people are amazing in the way they've turned their lives around," said Walker, noting that they now lecture on the dangers of drugs. "They have a family unit now that's cohesive and doing well."
He moved into his parents' home and has transferred schools. The panel granted him eligibility.
Senior Austin Terry was denied a hardship waiver in transferring from Fremont to Roy, and another student was denied a fifth year of eligibility after his parents held him back a year due to medical issues.