With a star NFL quarterback currently sitting in jail, MLB's all-time career home run leader on trial for perjury and its most highly acclaimed pitcher facing a steroid investigation, an officiating scandal fresh in the mind of NBA fans and a constant swarm of alleged misconduct in NCAA sports, it's easy to see why fans are becoming increasingly jaded about competitive sports and a perceived lack of sportsmanship.
However, East County has its own blossoming story about what's right in the world of sports, as the Deer Valley girls basketball team heads into next week's NCS playoffs without star center Ashley Ellis, who has been declared academically ineligible for the remainder of the season.
Ellis, one of the most dominating forces in Bay Area girls high school basketball, has fallen behind in her coursework, and as a result will be spending the upcoming weeks focusing on getting her coursework in order rather than scoring buckets for the Lady Wolverines.
"Ashley's taking it hard," said Deer Valley head coach Lindsay Wisely. "She's a great athlete and has been a great teammate, and I know that she takes full responsibility for this and that she feels terrible about it."
Ellis signed a letter of intent in November to attend the University of Kansas and play basketball for the Jayhawks next season, and according to Wisely, she is still currently eligible to honor her commitment, and it's her goal, as well as the goal of Deer Valley's faculty, to make sure that remains the case.
"A lot of people are under the impression that she's not going to be able to go to Kansas, and that's just not true," Wisely said. "She's academically ineligible for the rest of the season, not ineligible to go to Kansas. We're giving her the time to make academics a priority, and our principals and AD have been fantastic in supporting her - setting her up with an academic advisor and arranging meetings with her teachers, and it's really helping."
Rather than taking the loss of its star center as a sign of impending doom and an insurmountable obstacle in its quest for a state crown, the Lady Wolverines are focused on using the situation as an avenue to show both their commitment to academic excellence and their versatility and depth on the basketball court.
Wisely maintains that her team is one of the deepest and most well rounded in the area, and that although Ellis' presence in the middle will be missed, her absence will allow the team to do some different, exciting things on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.
After years of dominance on the local basketball scene, the Lady Wolverines have little left to prove on the court, but in dealing with Ellis' academic ineligibility, Deer Valley has gone a long way in proving its commitment to both educating its students, holding its athletes accountable and offering them the best opportunity possible to succeed in the classroom and at life.
"We don't get that press sometimes, and sports writers are going to write what they're going to write," said Wisely, "but it's important for people to know that we have two great principals and a great AD who, even in a school of 3,500, take the time to help one student."