Ricardo Arduengo/Associated Press
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Each of Mike Glover’s 12 tattoos carries personal significance, but none is more emblematic than the eight italicized words inked on his lean left calf: “If You Don’t Know Me Don’t Judge Me.”
The message is a defiant reference to the labels he felt he acquired because his senior-year transcript from American Christian Academy in Aston, Pa., was voided; because he had a son at a young age; because he came from housing projects in the Bronx; because he attended junior college.
The tattoo recently turned three years old. Its birthday was celebrated not with petulance, but with a dunk. Glover, a first-team all-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference selection for the second consecutive year, is the hyperactive centerpiece for top-seeded Iona (24-6, 15-3 MAAC) as it enters the conference tournament this week.
Glover’s journey spans three high schools and four colleges in five states, with a courtroom detour in between. Once a top prospect for Seton Hall, in 2008 Glover, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward, sued the N.C.A.A. after he was declared academically ineligible out of high school — a rare move that cost him two years of playing.
He bounced to two junior colleges — in Brooklyn and Utah — never vacillating from his desire to play Division I. Iona finally gave him a home, and there he has managed to upright a career and a reputation.
“I think everything happens for a reason,” Glover said. “Back then it just wasn’t my time to excel, I guess.”
Raised in the Soundview section of the Bronx, Glover was the cornerstone of Bobby Gonzalez’s first recruiting class at Seton Hall. But in the fall of 2007, just as Glover’s classes began, the N.C.A.A., after investigating his grades at American Christian, deemed him ineligible. (The academy ultimately closed as a high school in June 2008.)
He filed multiple appeals and, with no scholarship, eventually took out a loan to pay tuition for the spring semester, hoping the N.C.A.A. would change its decision. According to Glover, coaches continued to assure him that the decision would soon be reversed. “I’m just waiting, waiting, waiting,” Glover said.
In August 2008, Glover, with the lawyers Walter R. Stone and Jeffrey M. Crudup, filed suit in Rhode Island against the N.C.A.A. and the Big East Conference. United States District Judge Ernest Torres dismissed the lawsuit on procedural grounds.
In a telephone interview, Crudup said the basis of their argument was that the N.C.A.A. never explained why Glover’s eligibility was revoked.
“The N.C.A.A. just didn’t seem to account for a kid doing better,” Crudup said. “Mike was left wondering, ‘Didn’t I do what I was supposed to do?’ ”
The lawyers were prepared to appeal, but Glover decided to move on. He and his girlfriend, Alyssa Carter, had just had a baby boy, and he did not want to swing from courtroom to courtroom.
Glover enrolled at ASA College in Brooklyn. He was in uniform in late January, having just stepped off the team bus to play his first collegiate game, when a coach told him that his eligibility paperwork still had not been accepted. He burst into tears and hailed a cab home.
Over the next five months, Glover lived in his family’s apartment in the Bronx River Houses on East 174th Street, sharing a cramped bedroom with his son’s crib, figuring out what to do next. He said he grew depressed.
“Everything just built up,” Glover said. “I didn’t know if it was signs or what was going on. It was scaring me, actually. I just thought I needed to get into a school. If I could get in a school, I could take it from there.”
That July, Glover attended Jerry Mullen’s Junior College Top 100 Camp, an invitation-only annual showcase in Tulsa, Okla. A 27-year-old coach, Chris Craig, from the College of Eastern Utah, knew nothing of Glover’s background, but he liked his effort and intensity, and offered him a spot.
C.E.U. could not be further from the Big East. The college is in Price, a tiny, mostly Mormon mining community in the high desert plains just north of the San Rafael Swell. Glover lived in a dorm, frequented the town’s lone chain restaurant, called Wingers, and took overnight rides in a 1982 MCI bus to play programs like Northern Idaho College.
“This is what needed to be done,” Glover said. “My ultimate goal was to come back to Division I basketball. That was my dream.”
While in Utah, Glover signed a letter of intent to play for Coach Brian Nash at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. That was the plan until he got a text message informing him that Nash had resigned.
Scrambling, Glover took a cue from a former coach about Iona, a college he scoffed at when it recruited him in high school. Coach Tim Cluess was skeptical about Glover’s résumé until an assistant, Jared Grasso, brought Glover on campus for a visit in early July 2010.
“Once I talked to him and laid everything out on the line about how we do things, and accountability and what we expected of him, it was really an easy conversation,” Cluess said. “I genuinely felt he was a kid that got a little bit used by the system and was just looking for an opportunity again.”
Cluess thought he had unearthed something special — a castoff who had acquired an unfair label that did not reflect his personality or motivation.
“Sometimes in our profession, when you go from one school to another school, I think the immediate reaction is he’s got baggage, something is not right,” Marist Coach Chuck Martin said in a telephone interview. “But I’ll tell you, Mike is a great kid. He’s one of my favorite guys.”
As a result, Iona has won 49 games in two seasons with Glover, who averaged 18.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game this season for the highest-scoring team (83.4 points a game) in the country.
He is still with Alyssa (they have been together about seven years), and Mike Jr. is a regular presence at home games. He is set to graduate with a degree in criminal justice, and is thoughtful and reflective in describing his experience as something of a cautionary tale.
He never did get a full explanation for the ineligibility that once upended his life. But the ink stain from that episode has finally worn off.
“I don’t want anything now,” Glover said. “I’m happy.”
The New York Times
The New York Times