Home News How Covid and the Rule Book Kept a Promising Athlete on the Bench

How Covid and the Rule Book Kept a Promising Athlete on the Bench

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In the spring of 2020, during the early throes of the pandemic, Harris was finishing his sophomore year at public school in Ossining, N.Y. Like a lot of students, he wasn’t learning well from prerecorded video lectures. His parents, who had seen his two older sisters struggle with college coursework despite being honor students at the local high school, decided to enroll him in private school. In his application essay to Fordham Prep, Harris wrote that he was seeking “a structured educational program.” He repeated his sophomore year at Fordham Prep to catch up.

Jahmir’s parents, Tosha and Kenroy, married young and did not finish high school (though Tosha received her diploma last year). For that reason, they made attending college a priority for their three children. Kenroy’s job as a foreman at a crane yard is their sole income, and they made sacrifices to send Jahmir to Fordham Prep, where tuition costs more than $20,000 per year. Tosha jokes that the 14-year-old minivan she drives is held together with a Band-Aid.

Because of local restrictions, there was no basketball season during the 2020-21 school year, Harris’s sophomore year. Tosha and Kenroy both have medical conditions that make them high risk for the coronavirus, so Harris did not step foot inside Fordham Prep that year, instead attending live classes virtually to help protect them. The A.A.U. circuit, where a lot of recruiting takes place, was also constricted at the onset of the pandemic.

In December 2020, knowing that her son would not play during his sophomore season, Tosha wrote a letter to the Catholic High School Athletic Association, or C.H.S.A.A. She asked that he be allowed to play in his junior and senior seasons even though his senior season would have technically been his fifth year of eligibility. She wanted him to have the fullest high school experience possible and the best chance to play in college like his sister Kailah, a scholarship athlete at Seton Hall.

Brian Carney, the interim president at Fordham Prep, said that the school submitted Tosha’s letter along with Jahmir’s transfer paperwork that month.

Harris and his family got vaccinated against the coronavirus in 2021, paving the way for him to return to both in-person classes and the basketball court. He earned a spot as the only junior in Fordham Prep’s starting lineup for the 2021-22 season and had one of his best games of the season to help his team win the city championship. He began hearing from Division III coaches and was invited to summer camps at Columbia and Fairfield, both Division I programs.

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