Six New Jersey high school basketball players, all from Puerto Rico or Nigeria, appear to have been living with their coach, have complained about going hungry, and are the subjects of a Division of Child Protection and Permanency investigation, according to an NJ.com investigative report.
Juan Griles is the head coach of the Paterson Eastside High School basketball team. In the last couple of weeks, NJ.com witnessed six players exiting his 922-square-foot condo in the morning and heading towards school, despite Griles having previously told reporters that no more than two players had ever lived with him. At one point Griles was also listed as the legal guardian of five of the players—and his condo was listed as their primary address—according to a school district database, with assistant coach Alberto Maldonado listed as the legal guardian of the sixth.
NJ.com reports that the state’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency is investigating “the whereabouts and safety of the teenagers, how they arrived in Paterson and who has legal custody,” and that the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association has asked the school for additional information. A number of sources told NJ.com some pretty disturbing stories about the players’ living situation:
One player, a source within the district said, was told he needed to leave the condo because the food now belonged to another player who had just arrived. Another player was in tears at school because he feared being sent away.
One player said Griles did not provide enough food in the house and that dinner was spaghetti for “a whole two weeks” or “just a loaf of bread to last two people for like two weeks.” The player, who also spoke on the condition his name not be used, said the teens sometimes would seek out food at a local church, often had to fend for themselves on weekends and that “we didn’t eat anything” on Thanksgiving.
The only departure from the routine came Thursday when five players emerged. The sixth, according to two people familiar with the situation at Eastside, had been exiled from the house permanently. A week earlier, that player was found alone and hungry by a district teacher after spending a night alone in a local Dunkin’ Donuts, sources said.
Paterson Eastside is currently 14-2 and ranked in the top 20 in the state. Two of the team’s starters are among the players who appear to be living with Griles.