Star player says former school ‘trying to ruin my life’ as CIF eligibility hearing awaits

Parker family

The immediate basketball future of one of the area’s top players could be determined Tuesday morning during a Zoom proceeding with a hearing officer from the California Interscholastic Federation, the state’s governing body for high school sports.

The issue is whether or not Grant High School recruited Kiku Parker to transfer to the Del Paso Heights campus last spring after the point guard set career scoring marks at El Camino, where he was named Bee All-Metro following his junior season.

This is what El Camino has alleged, and CIF Sac-Joaquin Section commissioner Mike Garrison agreed. A month ago, Garrison ruled Parker ineligible to play his senior season with the two-time defending Sac-Joaquin Section champion Pacers, citing undue influence and pre-enrollment contact by Grant.

The section office said this was an “athletically motivated” transfer for Parker, who grew up in Del Paso Heights, as did his parents.

The Parker family hired a San Francisco-based law firm to represent Parker, a powerfully built 6-foot guard who has drawn college recruiting interest from programs such as Chico State, USF, Long Beach State and San Diego State. The Parkers contend a strained relationship with El Camino coach Mamo Rafiq led Parker to enroll at Grant in June, a move that was approved by Grant’s school district but later challenged by El Camino.

“Kiku Parker Jr. deserves to play basketball,” attorney Luke Apfeld told The Sacramento Bee. “He has done nothing wrong, nor has Grant High School. The vindictive conduct of El Camino High School’s coach and athletic director are shameful, and must not be allowed to influence CIF in carrying out this irreparable injustice. We will not rest until Kiku is on the court with his Grant teammates.”

Apfeld said the intent is to be heard and to be understood. The Zoom session will include Grant coaches, Grant administrators, the Parker family and coaches from other area basketball programs.

Said Parker, “I did nothing wrong. I just want to play basketball at my school and study sports medicine. I left El Camino when my family moved, and I enrolled at Grant properly. The El Camino coach treated me horribly, but I truly can’t believe that the people at El Camino would go this far. It feels like they are trying to ruin my life.”

Grant coach Deonard Wilson said he has known Parker for years, just as he knows many student-athletes who grew up in Del Paso Heights. But he denies that he or anyone in his program recruited Parker, who enrolled at Grant on June 9 and took summer courses in Grant’s highly regarded Sports Health Academy. Parker did not play any summer league basketball with the Pacers until June 21, Wilson said.

According to the Statement of Facts Apfeld compiled for this case through discussions with the Parker family and witnesses, the relationship with Parker and his coach soured on Dec. 20, 2021. During a basketball tournament in Yuba City, the statement reads, “Mr. Rafiq verbally attacked Kiku, blaming him for a mistake that Kiku did not make. Mr. Rafiq cursed and screamed at Kiku, telling him that he didn’t deserve to wear an El Camino jersey. Mr. Rafiq kicked Kiku off the team and forced him to leave the bench in front of everyone in attendance, shirtless and humiliated. Coaches present, including those from El Camino and Oakmont, are on record stating that they have never seen a coach treat a child like Mr. Rafiq treated Kiku on that day. The next week, Kiku and his parents had to beg Mr. Rafiq and the El Camino administration to let Kiku return to the team. Reluctantly, El Camino agreed. However, Kiku was stripped of his captaincy and his team-room privileges.”

The statement continued, “The increasingly toxic relationship Kiku had with his basketball coach left the Parkers with no option other than to transfer Kiku. When they were looking for new schools, they wanted to put Kiku in a school close to home to ensure his success. He wanted to study Kinesiology and sports science, and go to school in an environment where he would be accepted and could resume a happy and healthy life. Grant was the school that met the Parkers’ needs. They received a valid change of residence, the Natomas Unified School District signed and granted an Application for Interdistrict Transfer Permit (“ITP”), and Kiku enrolled at Grant. ... Mr. Rafiq and (El Camino athletic director) Mr. (Ron) Concklin made it their mission to ensure that Kiku would never play basketball anywhere but El Camino. They formally protested Kiku’s transfer to the CIF, stating that they had evidence of pre-enrollment contact between the Parkers and multiple schools in the Sacramento area.”

Apheld concluded there was “no substantial evidence of pre-enrollment contact, recruiting and/or undue influence.”

The CIF did not comment. The Bee was not able to reach Rafiq. In an email to The Bee, Concklin said: “At this time, it is a legal issue,” indicating he can’t comment until after a decision is made.

In conclusion, Apheld said in the statement, “We request that the Hearing Officer put an end to this malicious attack. Mr. Rafiq should not be allowed to destroy a young man’s life, and the section commissioner should not validate his conduct by relying on such weak ‘evidence’ to jeopardize Kiku’s future. Due to the imbalance of all the evidence, we respectfully request that the Hearing Officer immediately grant this appeal and reinstate Kiku with full eligibility to participate in his senior season at Grant.”