For 17-year-old Isaiah Wright, years of shooting hoops in the backyard of his Jamaica home has helped him become a star point guard at Cardozo High School. And while Wright dreams of playing college basketball for UCLA, the expense of college is daunting.
“Honestly, it’s really important for me to get a scholarship,” Wright told NY1. “I feel like I want to go to college and chase my dreams for the NBA route.”
But now the path to getting that athletic scholarship is a lot more complicated, due to strict COVID-19 guidelines that prevent spectators, including college coaches and scouts, from attending any indoor competition in the Public Schools Athletic League in New York City.
“I feel like it’s going to be a harder step now because coaches can’t see us,” Wright said. “But hopefully this year they change that rule.”
At a rally Sunday outside Barclays Center student athletes, coaches, politicians and activists called attention to the policy, saying it could lead to fewer scholarships for many gifted public school athletes.
Wright's coach at Cardozo, Ron Naclerio, was there.
“One way I win the game of life is my kids after they leave me, I make sure they’re in college,” Naclerio said. “I’ve been blessed. I’ve had 91 get division one college, 64 division two, numerous division three, numerous academic scholarships.”
Naclerio believes Wright has what it takes to make a division one team.
And while Wright is certainly confident in his athletic abilities, he fears college scouts would be way more impressed if they watched him in person.
“If the scout sees you in person, I feel like they get everything out of you, instead of just seeing it on video. I feel like it’s just not right,” Wright said.
NY1 reached out to the Department of Education for comment.
A spokesperson told NY1, “We are constantly evaluating our spectator policies based on the current health care landscape, and we continue to celebrate the safe return of athletics with over 13,000 students currently on the field and 500 competitions already safely conducted.”
With the Knicks and Nets able to host thousands of fans, as long as they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, some critics argue the same criteria should apply to spectators who want to attend indoor PSAL competitions.