The head boys basketball coach at Chugiak High School appears to have broken Alaska School Activities Association recruiting rules and then lied to school administrators and state activities officials in an attempt to cover up the violation.
A former coach and colleague said Wednesday that Chugiak High coach Jocquis Sconiers admitted to the recruiting violation and asked him to lie if asked about the situation.
“He suckered me into this story,” said Jules Ferguson, who formerly worked as a coach in the AAU summer league basketball program run by Sconiers.
The possible recruiting violation came to light when video from a July AAU tournament in Las Vegas showed Robert Sheldon — who led Noatak to a Class 1A title in March — playing for the TruGame Select AAU team coached by Sconiers.
Sconiers is Chugiak’s head coach and the program director of TruGame, an AAU program that fields several teams that draw players from across the state. Sheldon is now a student at Chugiak High and the starting point guard for the school’s basketball team.
The video appears to show a direct violation of ASAA’s rules on recruiting, which state:
“A student who participates as a member of an out-of-school team coached by another school’s coach, and who subsequently transfers to that coach’s school, will be ineligible in that sport for one full season at the receiving school.”
It also seems to contradict what Sconiers has said about his relationship with Sheldon.
“I wasn’t his AAU coach,” Sconiers said last week following Chugiak’s 70-36 win over Tikigaq in the opening round of the Cougar Tip Off Tournament at Service High.
“I ran the program, TruGame. So his direct coach? No.”
On Tuesday, Sconiers doubled down on that assertion, saying the man in the video was actually Ferguson — who bears a passing resemblance to the Chugiak coach. When contacted Wednesday, Ferguson initially said he coached the team this summer in Las Vegas.
About an hour later, he called back. Ferguson said he used to coach with the TruGame program but left in March. He said he wasn’t at the Las Vegas tournament, but that Sconiers called him “out of the blue” Tuesday night and asked him to lie if anyone called asking about the tournament.
Ferguson said Sconiers told him to lie because he didn’t want anyone to get in trouble. Ferguson said he initially agreed to claim he was the man in the video because he was worried about the impact a scandal could have on Sconiers’ young daughter.
“I just didn’t want him to be in a bad situation as a father,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said that after he prayed about the situation, he knew he had to tell the truth.
“By me doing this and thinking I’m helping him out, this is bad,” he said. “It’s bad for everyone.”
Sconiers did not return calls or texts asking for comment Wednesday. Ferguson’s admission casts serious doubt on the story Sconiers has been telling since last month, when coaches and parents at rival Eagle River High School first raised issues with the Sheldon transfer.
Chugiak acting principal Allison Susel and assistant principal Ben Johrendt said Wednesday afternoon they had no immediate comment on the new revelations. Last month, Chugiak principal Megan Hatswell — who has since gone on maternity leave — said the transfer appeared to be valid.
“What I can on the record say is the school did our due diligence and do not feel the move was athletically motivated,” she said at the time.
Susel and Johrendt said they would look into the new information and take whatever action is warranted.
Last month, ASAA executive director Billy Strickland said he granted a transfer waiver because he was told Sconiers did not directly coach Sheldon on the AAU team. He said at the time that if new information showed otherwise, it would be “a big deal.”
“If we were to determine our investigation was not accurately done — particularly if we had been misled — any student involved would be ineligible and any coach could be deemed ineligible as well,” Strickland said.
A spokesperson for Bigfoot Hoops, which put on the July tournament, said it had no information about who coached the game in question.
On Wednesday, Strickland said Sconiers told him the man in the video was Ferguson. When asked how ASAA would react to Ferguson’s denial, Strickland said he would have to investigate more and would likely contact the Anchorage School District before deciding on any possible disciplinary actions in regard to Sconiers. However, he said if Sconiers was indeed Sheldon’s coach in Las Vegas, ASAA would likely rule Sheldon ineligible and Chugiak would have to forfeit any games played so far this season. The Mustangs are currently 1-2.
Sconiers has been Chugiak’s head coach since 2014. Last year he guided the Mustangs to a third-place finish at the Class 4A state tournament in Anchorage.
He’s also the director of TruGame, a summer AAU program as well as a college recruiting company. For prices ranging from $99 to $250, according to its website, Sconiers offers a variety of services to high school players, including online player profiles, creating highlight videos for distribution to college coaches and contacting coaches on the players’ behalf.
TruGame currently has a dozen Alaska basketball players from multiple schools including Chugiak on its “Athletes” page, though it’s unclear how many are paying Sconiers to promote them.