WPIAL rules Lincoln Park transfers eligible, requests hearings for Imani newcomers

Wednesday, November 2, 2022 | 1:11 AM

The WPIAL cleared Lincoln Park transfers Maddie Syka and Abbi Jannuzi to play girls basketball in the regular season this winter after holding separate eligibility hearings Tuesday in Green Tree.

Blackhawk had flagged their transfers as maybe motivated by athletics since both played for the same AAU program, but the WPIAL board disagreed after hearing testimony from the students, their families and representatives of the two schools. The board accepted that academics was their reason, WPIAL executive director Scott Seltzer said.

The two juniors said they chose the charter school for its health science program.

Syka and Jannuzi are eligible for the regular season but ineligible for the playoffs for one year under PIAA transfer rules. Lincoln Park can appeal that postseason status to the PIAA.

Blackhawk had flagged their transfers in part because both played AAU for the same team, Strick Hoops. Blackhawk girls basketball coach Steve Lodovico said another former player associated with that program also had transferred to Lincoln Park in recent years.

Lincoln Park athletic director Mike Bariski refuted any link between his school and the AAU program.

“As far as Strick Hoops and a relationship with Lincoln Park, I have no idea who this (AAU coach) is,” Bariski said. “If he’s pushing them back to Blackhawk, to Lincoln Park or to the Lakers, we have nothing to do with it.”

The two players left a Blackhawk program that went 26-1 last season and won the WPIAL Class 4A title. At Lincoln Park, they join a basketball team that went 12-10 overall and 2-8 in Section 1-5A. Blackhawk questioned whether they were seeking more playing time elsewhere, but Lodovico said neither had complained to him.

Of the two, Syka was seen as the bigger impact player. Lodovico said she was a varsity contributor as a sophomore and started at times early in the summer before transferring in July.

“We hate to lose a player of Maddie’s caliber,” Lodovico said. “Obviously, that’s a blow to any program. Yes, we do have a lot of good players, we are blessed, but losing someone like Maddie is always difficult.”

Bariski said Syka was drawn to Lincoln Park’s health science program because her family owns Syka Funeral Home in Ambridge and she wants to become a mortician.

“You’ll never hear that again (during an eligibility hearing),” Bariski said of her career choice. “She and her family felt Lincoln Park was the best place for her to get the educational background.”

Hearings for Imani, Serra

The WPIAL wants more information about four boys basketball players who transferred to Imani Christian, so the league will schedule eligibility hearings in the coming days, Seltzer said.

Two of the four, sophomore Damon Givner and junior Rayshawn Saunders, transferred from Obama Academy. Junior Kylan Holmes transferred from First Love, and sophomore Robert Sledge came from Bishop Canevin.

Imani Christian is one of the WPIAL’s smaller schools, but its basketball program has a big profile. The Saints reached the WPIAL Class A semifinals and state quarterfinals last season behind Alier Maluk, a 6-foot-10 sophomore with Pitt and West Virginia among his Division I offers.

Seltzer said the WPIAL board also voted to hold eligibility hearings for Serra Catholic transfers Matthew McNeal and David Jordan, sophomores who arrived from Woodland Hills.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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