In a bizarre story on Thursday, the Windsor Star reported that Jonathon Nicola, a Canadian high school basketball star, may actually be 29 years old.
Nicola, who is from South Sudan, and was recruited to play basketball in Canada, was living with his Catholic Central coach Pete Cusumano under the guise of a 17-year-old.
Yahoo’s Jeff Eisenberg dug further into the story and found what may have given Nicola — who is currently in custody, awaiting another hearing — away.
The Canada Border Service Agency, who arrested Nicola, told Yahoo in a statement:
“Mr. Nicola submitted an application for a Canadian study permit abroad with a date of birth of November 25, 1998. When he recently applied for a U.S. visitor visa, it was determined by fingerprint match, that he was the same individual who had made a previous application to the U.S. using a date of birth of November 1, 1986.”
According to Eisenberg, Nicola was recruited to Canada by Deng D’Awole, a former American Basketball Association player who now works in his native South Sudan teaching basketball. D’Awol told his friend Greg Dole, a former high school teammate, that Nicola was the best player he had seen in Eastern Africa, calling him the next Kevin Durant.
What remains unclear is if anybody at Catholic Central knew Nicola’s real age. According to Eisenberg, Nicola’s mother had told D’Awol that Nicola was only 17. Cusumano hasn’t commented on the situation.
On Wednesday night, as noted by Eisenberg, Catholic Central point guard Richie Akinsanya tweeted in support of Nicola, saying, “If you were in a war torn country and were given an opportunity to get out, you’d take it in a heartbeat too.”
Massey coach Keith McShan, who coached against Nicola, told Yahoo, “At first I was shocked, but now I just feel sorry for the man. He had to fake being 17 to leave his war-torn country and come to Canada. I felt sorry for him that he had to go to that extent.”