A few months ago, Jerry Joseph was a 16-year-old high school basketball phenom from Odessa, Texas. Then questions emerged concerning Joseph's age, and last week it became a national story. On Tuesday, Joseph -- whose real name is Guerdwich Montimere and who is really 22 -- was arrested at Permian High School and booked on a charge of presenting false identification to a peace officer.
If Montimere is convicted, he could face up to six months in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. There's more: Permian could have to forfeit the 2009 basketball season that included a trip to the District 2-5A state playoffs, and for Montimere the Newcomer of the Year award after averaging 20 points a game.
"I feel like I was hit by a ton of bricks," district athletic director Leon Fuller admitted to the AP. "In my 50 years in education, I've never heard of anything like this."
Last week, news outlets reported that South Florida Elite AAU coaches Cedric Smith and Louis Vives were convinced Joseph was really Montimere, who played at Fort Lauderdale's Dillard High School and graduated in 2007. Smith told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that "I'm 100 percent sure. I would bet my paycheck" on the fact that Joseph is really Montimere.
And Vives told USA Today that, "It was shocking, and the question at hand was just why. ... When I approached him, I just wanted to know what was going on. The surprised look on his face gave it away that it was him ... Once he saw a Florida team and players and coaches who knew him, the look on his face was like, 'Wow, what am I into now?' "
As Smith and Vives were making accusations, Wright still supported his embattled player, telling the Odessa American that he wanted to adopt Joseph, who he felt was wrongly accused. Now he just feels betrayed. "This affected a lot of people. The whole school of Permian embraced that kid. He deceived us and played on everyone's emotions," Wright said.
"Everyone just thought he was a big guy," said Permian senior football player Steven Pipes. "He played the part good, skipping down the hallways acting goofy like a 16-year-old."
Permian High School was also the setting for "Friday Night Lights," a book about high school football in West Texas written by Buzz Bissinger in 1990. It was made into a movie in 2004 and later a television series.