Friends of Jurkovitz say, Let him play
Campaign seeks to reverse OSAA ruling on Swiss basketball standout
In most cases Natan Jurkovitz is just the kind of young man you want in your country.
He is a great guy, an outstanding basketball prospect and it is impossible to find anyone who says anything bad about him. Even the kids he dunks on in games.
In fact, everyone wants Jurkovitz back in Lake Oswego for another year (even his parents) except one group: the Oregon School Activities Association. The OSAA has ruled that the 18-year-old native of Switzerland can under no circumstances play another year of basketball in this state. In a letter from the OSAA, his host family the Bolgers was informed that if a foreign student returned for a second year he or she must sit out the one year of ineligibility that was originally waived for them.
Jurkovitz's year in Lake Oswego concluded in sad manner last week when he had to board a jet plane to take him back to his home country. Tears flowed like rain.
"Natan was sobbing when we took him to the airport," said Jen Bolger, Jurkovitz's host mother in Lake Oswego. "My daughter, Morgan (a sophomore-to-be at LOHS), was crying. Natan had been embraced by the coach, the athletic director and everybody in the Lake Oswego community. Everyone just loves him. Natan is polite, he's got a great sense of humor, he's appreciative. He's got over 1,000 contacts on Twitter."
Pleas to the OSAA on Jurkovitz's behalf by the Bolger family, friends, faculty and Lakers basketball fans have been met with firm rejection. The Bolgers received three letters of rejection, each one firmer than the last.
"What upset me most was the tone of the letter," Bolger said. "To deny him the chance to do anything, it's like, 'Wow!'"
The third denial letter, from OSAA Executive Director Tom Welter, convinced Bolger she had to do something. So she embraced the chance to have a letter writing campaign offered by change.org, an online site that specializes in petition drives promoting everything from allowing gay Boy Scouts to barring junk food in schools.
Bolger has a big problem with the OSAA decision on Jurkovitz. She simply cannot understand it. For one thing the rule affecting the Swiss teenager was made almost 100 years ago.
"So you're not even going to look at a rule made in 1918?" Bolger said. "It's not that this rule has never been adapted. We were never given any rationality for it."
What is giving a high profile to Jurkovitz's case is that he has tremendous potential as a basketball player. He did not see a lot of action last season on the powerhouse Lakers team that was unbeaten and ranked number one in the state for most of the season. Every day in practice Jurkovitz had to go against Oregon state player of the year Calvin Hermanson. But in this day and age there is no bushel basket big enough to cover a kid that is 6 feet 7 inches, 205 pounds and bursting with raw ability.
"Natan is going to be a fantastic player," Bolger said. "He's left handed and really fast."
Lakers boys head coach Mark Shoff also thinks Jurkovitz has a huge future.
"Natan has unbelievable talent," said Shoff. "He has great hand-eye coordination. He's long. I think he'll be really good. He's only played basketball three or four years and he's got a big learning curve. But he's a very bright kid and is very coachable. We would love to have him for another season."
Beyond basketball ability, Shoff said, "In my 30 years of teaching, Natan is one of the friendliest, most outgoing kids. He really set in with his teammates and school."
"Twenty-one college coaches are looking at him," Bolger said. "They want his transcripts and they're inviting him to open gyms. Coaches from University of Portland, Cal Poly, Arizona State and Washington State. After they saw him in the Las Vegas tournament his phone was really lighting up."
The day before his departure back to Switzerland, Jurkovitz said, "Lake Oswego is a really good school. I loved my year there. I loved playing there. I learned how to attack the basket, I learned how to take a charge. I learned American basketball."
Is this the end of Natan Jurkovitz's American basketball love story?
"I'm not sure if we have enough time to bring a change," Bolger admitted.
Still, there is a chance.
"We hope that everywhere there's a basketball lover he'll sign the petition," Bolger said.
To send a letter to the OSAA on Natan Jurkovitz's behalf, go to the website change.com.
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