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Former Lincoln Park coach Fil Torres says the JV coach at the school has been violating IHSA rules. | Sun-Times Library
Chicago Public League basketball is an insular world. The high-level coaches often are friends, but they compete in a cutthroat style on and off the court throughout the year. The one thing they almost never do is blow the whistle on a rule-breaker, so give former Lincoln Park coach Fil Torres credit for that.
Torres believes he was let go from his job as athletic director and basketball coach at Lincoln Park in May. He’s waiting for official confirmation from the school board. On Tuesday, he spoke out about Lincoln Park junior-varsity coach Donovan Robinson, who is also the dean of students at Lincoln Park. Torres said Robinson has been illegally recruiting basketball players to Lincoln Park.
‘‘[Robinson] has been going to AAU tournaments,’’ Torres said. ‘‘He’s been scouting them, recruiting them. He thinks that if he recruits the parents, it’s not a violation of IHSA rules.’’
Robinson’s Facebook page boldly and proudly documents his recruiting efforts for Lincoln Park. One example:
‘‘Just added PG- Marco Lewis a student from Manierre Elementary School to the Freshman Class 2013. His parents just left the school from picking out his classes for next school year. I’ve had my eyes on this kid for 2 years. Lincoln Park High School is getting a great kid in the class room and on the basketball court. His Father said, I’m asking you to be that OTHER male role model and figure in my sons life....WOW, TEAR MOMENT. #Recruit the Parents.#’’
Robinson didn’t deny or apologize for his efforts and said he isn’t doing anything wrong.
‘‘I go out with the admissions team to various schools and talk with parents whose kids are eligible to attend Lincoln Park, and that is all,’’ Robinson said. ‘‘I don’t see how that is illegal recruiting. I don’t talk to any kids. Zero.’’
The IHSA doesn’t differentiate between recruiting parents and kids; it’s illegal to recruit anyone to play basketball. Robinson said he’s trying to get the word out about Lincoln Park’s school, not the basketball program.
‘‘It’s about education,’’ Robinson said. ‘‘Get your son or daughter to a great school. I’m not doing anything different than Young, Simeon, Morgan Park or anyone. Kids are coming here to get an education. It’s not about basketball.’’
According to Torres, Robinson boasted that rising sophomore basketball player Ibrahim Dosunmu only came to Lincoln Park because Robinson promised Dosunmu’s mother he personally would drive Dosunmu to school from his home on the South Side. Robinson denied the charge.
‘‘[Dosunmu] applied for Lincoln Park,’’ Robinson said. ‘‘I met his father when he was in eighth grade. His parents applied and did all the right things.’’
High school coaches fill the stands at high-level eighth-grade basketball games. The high school recruiting process is unregulated, and the top players have their choice of schools.
Torres claimed that Lincoln Park principal Michael Boraz was ‘‘beyond upset with me that I did not go out and recruit kids. He said if everyone in [the Chicago Public Schools] is doing it, why aren’t we?’’
Boraz didn’t respond to several attempts made to contact him.
Torres is correct: The recruiting is against IHSA rules. Every four or five years, a recruiting allegation surfaces and a coach is suspended. In reality, the recruiting goes on all over the state. Boraz and Robinson are trying to get Lincoln Park in
Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the chief executive officer of CPS, wrote in an email that Torres’ accusations ‘‘are serious, and I consider them as such. I have forwarded to the appropriate authorities for investigation.’’
The IHSA will allow Lincoln Park and CPS to look into the matter before it takes any action, but don’t expect Torres’ accusations to result in any real change. Robinson is just a bit player in a high-stakes game. Having an elite basketball star at a school brings in major funds. CPS principals understand what that money can do for their cash-strapped schools.
On his way out the door, Torres dared to take on CPS and the basketball establishment. He tried to shine a little light on a lot of rule-breaking. Unfortunately, it’s a rule the IHSA and CPS don’t have the manpower — or much real interest — to enforce.
‘‘I know nothing is really going to happen,’’ Torres said. ‘‘They are going to try and sweep it under the rug and take care of their own. It’s a good-old-boys network.’’