The Americas

Canadian high school basketball star is 29-year-old man, authorities say

Canadian authorities said Wednesday that a budding high school basketball star is actually a 29-year-old refugee from South Sudan.

The Canadian Border Services Agency said that Jonathan Nicola was arrested earlier this week for contravening the country's Immigration Refugee Protection Act.

The agency said Nicola "misrepresented material facts" on his application for a study permit to Canada, submitting an application with a date of birth of Nov. 25, 1998 — which would make him 17. The agency says when Nicola recently applied for a U.S. visitor visa, a fingerprint match determined he was an individual who had made a previous application to the U.S. using a date of birth of Nov. 1, 1986 — making him 29.

The Windsor Star reported that Nicola was remanded into custody after a hearing before the country's Immigration and Refugee Board Tuesday. Another hearing is scheduled for next week. Nicola faces deportation if convicted

Nicola was attending Catholic Central High School in Windsor and played on the basketball team, even living with head coach Pete Cusumano. In January, Cusumano told the Windsor Star that he thought Nicola had a chance to play in the NBA.

However, at least one rival coach had his suspicions about Catholic Central's new star.

"I knew it when I looked right at him — I said ‘that guy’s 30 years old,'" Cam Nekkers of Pine Ridge Secondary School told The Toronto Star. "After the game, he’s sitting on the bench as a bunch of us walk by; we get past him, and I’m like, ‘Did you look at his face? Does anybody think he’s 17 years old?'"

The Toronto Star reported that Nicola arrived in Canada this past November and was issued a student visa good through January 2017. 

A spokesman for the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board wouldn't comment directly on the case, but said a "rigorous" system is in place requiring all international students to present valid government documentation — including passports and study permits — before they can enroll.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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