A South Sudanese high school basketball star accused of lying about his age admitted Wednesday he is not 17, as he claimed to be – but doesn’t exactly how old he is.
Jonathan John Elia Nicola, who authorities say is 29, told The Canadian Border Services Agency his mother does not remember his age, Reuters reports.
Nicola was arrested on April 15 after submitting a U.S. visa application with a date of birth of Nov. 25, 1998 — which would make him 17. The agency says 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. That would make him 29.
Also Tuesday, the immigration board ruled Nicola to be a flight risk and ordered him detained until May 24 in Windsor, Ontario. Nicola now faces potential deportation. According to transcripts, he wants to return to South Sudan.
Catholic Central High School in Windsor, where Nicola attended school, has said it respects the immigration board's decision and hopes "this sad story will conclude soon."
At least one rival basketball 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.