Former players speak out on Muhlenberg County basketball lawsuit allegations

Muhlenberg County High School
Muhlenberg County High School(WBKO)
Published: Jun. 15, 2016 at 10:32 PM CDT
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As a storm rolled in to Muhlenberg County, so did controversy. 2 recent Muhlenberg County High School graduates are suing the school, and their former coach Mike Harper.

Inside the lawsuit are words like "bully", "abuse" and "intimidation".

"The behavior that we had to endure was not the normal motivational methods," said former player Makaya Sampson.

Sampson argued that it was taken too far.

"When it comes to being criticized for my basketball performance, I can handle that. But when I am falsely accused of being jealous, and selfish and self-centered and that be a daily thing- I do not think it's acceptable."

The lawsuit was filed by two former players- Sampson and Kerra Vincent. Vincent did not want to be interviewed, but both were seniors this past season (2015-2016).

"Many players- past and present have had to endure it, but no one has been willing to step forward to say anything due to being intimidated," Sampson told WBKO.

Sampson said the team's three seniors eventually decided to quit the team in December, because of abuse they faced from their coach on a daily basis.

"That bad situation, we had to take ourselves out of it," Sampson said.

The worst allegations in the lawsuit were players feeling they had to play through injuries. At her attorney, Steven Dowell's office in Owensboro, Sampson detailed two instances of her playing through pain.

"Sophomore year I began having unbearable leg pain and I had informed my coach about this and he instructed me to continue to play- that it was just shin splints and I was later diagnosed with a stress fracture and torn fascia tissue which required surgery," Sampson said. "I went to save a ball, going from out of bounds and I got tripped and I hit my head very aggressively on the floor and I blacked out for a moment and honestly I don't remember playing the rest of the game but I was put back in just minutes after I hit."

She said she feels like she missed out on her senior year because of this.

"I had played basketball my whole life and had built a basketball career and my senior year, as well as the other two seniors, that's something you look forward to- that's your ending point and you look forward to the senior nights and everything like that. And it definitely knocked out a- it knocked out opportunities and the chance to finish up a game we loved."

Amiea Summers began playing for Harper in 7th grade and graduated in 2013. She now plays basketball at West Virginia State University. Her experience was nothing like what the lawsuit entails.

"If he did yell at me, it was more of 'because I know you can do better' type thing. It wasn't like 'you're awful' or anything like that," Summers said.

Summers said Harper was never a bully to his players.

"I couldn't see him being like that," she told WBKO over the phone.

Vincent and Sampson are seeking money, primarily for the injuries and medical care the required, but Sampson said she hopes that the Board of Education disciplines the coach and makes a bullying and injury protocol for coaches in the future.

We spoke with the Muhlenberg County Superintendent Randy McCarty this morning on the phone who told WBKO that the school cannot comment during ongoing litigation.