CINCINNATI - Bill Walker, one of the nation's top high school basketball players, will not be allowed to play this year because he has used up all of his eligibility, state athletic officials said on Monday.
Walker, a 6-foot-6 forward who combined with O.J. Mayo to lead North College Hill to consecutive state championships, has completed his eight semesters of eligibility, the Ohio High School Athletic Association said.
Walker played a year as a ninth-grader at Rose Hill Christian in Ashland, Ky., before enrolling at North College Hill as an eighth-grader in February 2003, the association said.
"Based on the information we have received, Bill has exhausted his eligibility because he has participated at the high school level for eight semesters, which is the maximum permitted according to our bylaws," Commissioner Dan Ross said in a statement. "While we certainly feel for Bill and his family, the bylaws are specific."
Walker was widely considered second only to Mayo among the nation's incoming seniors. Walker averaged 21.7 points and 10.1 rebounds last season, highlighted by a 50-point, 25-rebound performance in a 100-68 victory over Covington (Ky.) Holmes as North College Hill (26-1) lost only to Virginia-based perennial power Oak Hill Academy.
North College Hill High School officials have said they believed Walker had four full seasons of eligibility when he enrolled.
Ross said Walker could appeal, but said officials have thoroughly documented the case and have no authority to waive the rules. He said Walker's mother indicated Monday the family would look into an appeal.
"I think everybody feels terrible about this, but this is one of the bylaws for equity and a level playing field that was put in many years ago by member schools," Ross told reporters.
Ross said the association first heard questions about Walker's eligibility during the state tournament.
"While we are sad and disappointed for Bill, his teammates and our community, we have the utmost respect for the OHSAA and Commissioner Ross and believe the ruling was made accurately based on the information they received," North College Hill Principal Kelly Hughes said in a statement.
Mayo and Walker have said they want to play college basketball together, but it wasn't immediately clear how Monday's ruling will affect their plans or what Walker will do in the upcoming school year.
In winning this year's championship, a 90-73 victory over Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph, Mayo scored 34 points and Walker added 22 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Mayo has said in recent days they were interested in Southern Cal, the University of Florida and Kansas State, where former University of Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins is head coach.