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By JOHN SCHWARB
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 12, 2001
Clearwater freshman guard Karley Counts will return to the court tonight after the Florida High School Activities Association granted a special waiver of a recruiting rule.
Before an FHSAA appeals committee Thursday, school officials and the Counts family insisted academics, not recruiting, were the impetus behind her decision to attend Clearwater. Allegations of recruiting surfaced last week after Counts played 16 games for the Tornadoes. School officials held her out of three games pending the FHSAA's ruling.
Counts played summer basketball for a Clearwater AAU team coached by Kathy Shaneyfelt, the Clearwater High junior varsity coach and wife of varsity coach Tom Shaneyfelt. Though zoned to attend Largo, Counts enrolled at Clearwater and played basketball, which according to FHSAA bylaw 11.4.13 represents "prima facie evidence" of recruiting.
"The state felt (the bylaw) did not apply to Karley and found that there was no indication of undue influence," Clearwater principal Nick Grasso said.
"Our argument was that she came to our school in an appropriate fashion, and the appropriate guidelines were followed."
During the summer, Counts enrolled in magnet programs at Palm Harbor University and Clearwater and said those, "not recruiting or anything like that," were the factors in choosing a school.
"There were a variety of reasons, nothing pertaining to basketball," said Karley's father, Rick. "Karley's not a WNBA star. It isn't about that."
Grasso said the administration did not know at the beginning of the school year Counts had played for the Clearwater AAU team and admitted Tom Shaneyfelt should have "notified school personnel prior to us learning about it now.
"In hindsight, we would have been able to notify the state back in August," Grasso said.
Shaneyfelt declined to comment.
Even though Counts was not officially eligible until Thursday, Clearwater will not have to forfeit any games Counts played prior to the appeal, FHSAA associate commissioner Dan Boyd told Grasso.
However, a county investigation will continue, according to county athletic director Bob Hosack. The county was made aware of Counts' situation by her zoned school.
"The request for Mr. Hosack came from this office," Largo athletic director Len Koutney said. "We're just looking to make sure everybody follows the rules."
Clearwater plays tonight at Lakewood in a key Class 4A, District 11 game. Counts is the team's leading three-point shooter and is third in scoring. "It's a big relief; a lot of stress off my shoulders," Counts said. "I was nervous and scared."