DULUTH (WCCO) — When the boys state basketball tournament starts Wednesday, one of the top players in the state may not be playing.

Duluth East’s 7-foot center Akolda Manyang was allegedly caught smoking by a staffer at a youth facility where he has been living. That’s a violation of high school league rules.

“I was crushed. I was crushed. I couldn’t believe it,” said Assistant Coach Will Starks.

The morning of Duluth East’s first playoff game they found out they wouldn’t have Akolda. The 18-year-old has been staying at Woodland Hills, a facility in Duluth for at-risk youth. About a week ago a staffer there said they saw him smoking. Woodland Hills contacted the athletic director at Duluth East, who subsequently removed Akolda from the team.

“He should have spoken to Akolda first to find out the specifics of the situation and we wouldn’t be here right now,” said Starks.

Starks admits Akolda has been in trouble before, which is a big reason he ended up at Woodland Hills. But Akolda told him that he wasn’t smoking and Starks believes him, in part because Akolda asked to be tested for nicotine.

“My understanding is that he told the staff at Woodland Hills that, you know, ‘if you guys don’t believe that I’m telling the truth then you can test me,’ and they weren’t interested in that. So, there was never a test,” said Starks.

A representative at Woodland Hills told us that due to data privacy they can’t comment on the matter. But Starks thinks he already knows the answer.

“I don’t think (he was smoking) at all. In fact, I know he wasn’t. He’s done everything that’s been asked of him and it’s just amazing that people would shut the door on a kid like this,” said Starks.

Starks says the two people who were with Akolda Manyang the morning he was accused of smoking, are smokers themselves. They have said Akolda wasn’t smoking with them.

The team appealed his suspension, but that hearing was Monday and the school’s appeals committee doesn’t have to make a decision until Thursday.

By then, Duluth East could be out of the state tournament. They play Osseo in the first round at the Target Center at noon on Wednesday.

Starks says he was suspended at the beginning of the school year at Duluth East for an un-related incident, but hasn’t been in trouble since the basketball season started.

Akolda is averaging about 18 points and 14 rebounds a game.

Comments (58)
  1. Darren says:

    You should go out To the local Casino’s where there are alot of High School Seniors with their High School Sweatshirts on smoking away. I remember seeing a Rosemount Tennis Player with his shirt on saying he was a Rosemount Tennis Player smoking away with his friends at the blackjack tables. And if you look at your kids Facebooks, I would estimate 75% of the athletes are drinking or smokiing something, but its obvious that parents aren’t looking.

    1. Realist says:

      I love when people pull numbers out of thin air. Do you know tonight’s powerball numbers?

      1. Matt says:

        102 845 3689 5413 142 and the powerball will be -543

  2. Richard in Minneapolis says:

    This ‘kid’ is 18. That makes him an adult.

    1. Henry says:

      The argument is not whether or not the guy is 18, the argument is whether or not the guy was smoking. MSHSL rules are clear about this, that doesn’t mean that everyone follows them, but don’t leave a reason for them to punish you. You can tell me that he was 18 until the cows come home, but we aren’t talking about the law, we are talking about MSHSL rules, nobody is jailing him here, they are taking him out of participation for violation of a rule. I still wish the best for this “young man” (older than 18) and hope he gets to play because it doesn’t seem like they have a whole bunch of evidence that he was actually smoking.

    2. you know its true says:

      yes it does and also a gur

    3. mom says:

      Richard doesn’t matter he is participating in a high school activity. At the beginning of the season he signs a “contract” along with his legal guardian saying that he will not violate any of the Minnesota State High School League rules. If someone saw him smoking or says they saw him smoking the school has to impliment the high school league rules for violating this contract. As a parent of children who are involved in sports I always remind them that it doesn’t matter if you are doing it or not if the people you are hanging out with are doing it chances are people are going to associate you as doing the same behavior, so don’t put yourself in a situation where someone is going to question your behavior or character. This may not be right but that is the way life is, if someone were in a car while another person robs a bank chances are they are going to get charged as well.

      1. jackactionhero says:

        Oh really? I saw the star player of Osseo smoking. Get him out of the next game. I claimed it, so it’s true and they have to implement the punishment. Right?

        1. Jon T. says:

          Are you a staffer with some authority ? Of cours enot – just another immature idiot with fast fingers and a big mouth.

          Like every athlete who plays in MN – you signed a contract. That’s the fact.
          He’s not the first one to get tossed and won’t be the last one.
          He made a lousy choice and whether he was or not it’s guilt by association. At a key time in the season. He’ll maybe learn or if not I pity his selections in years ahead. Them be the Rules jack, them be the Rules. No doubt you are of the type who feels rules are just for others – that we also all know by your ignorant posts made daily. To bad you have 10 days yet before another check comes to you in the mail. Must be one bored little juvenile

  3. Joe Camel says:

    “Duluth East’s 7-foot center Akolda Manyang was allegedly caught smoking ”

    So much for smoking stunting your growth.

    Aren’t the anti-smoking zealots getting out of control?

  4. Semper Fi says:

    If he’s 18 what’s the problem?

    1. NSB008 says:

      It’s not an issue of his age..it is an issue wether he violated the rules of conduct that almost all athletes are subject to..being that the articles states that he “allegedly” smoked, the fact he was not tested and 2 other students stated that he did not smoke,the ruling should have been made in the students favor..granted we are not in the legal arena, there is a basic premise in our society that we are innocent until proven guilty.

  5. Dave O. says:

    Big f deal, he could be doing a lot worse. At 18 I say its his choice. If he is old enough to enlist in the service and get shot at he can smoke. Obviously someone at the school either has it out for him or is getting paid to make sure that duluth east doesn’t win the tourney. Makes as much sense and not letting him play.

    1. Troy says:

      Maybe its Karma.

      1. Real Talk says:

        No it wasnt karma….that trick is in jail for prostitution. She gets out Wednesday if you are interested.

    2. Joel says:

      Naaaa there Dave – he frigged up. To bad as they cut trashed by Osseo. Actually they may have anyway – just beat by a better club IMO.

      Well – they didn’t make it without their stud and it is to bad – for the teammates anyway.
      I see Hopkins did pull another one out without their stud – good for the teammates as they stepped it up a notch it seems. This is 2 or 3 in a row without him.
      Guess it’s proof positive that you need more than just a single stud to carry you. Injury, fouls and sometimes stupidity enter into the picture for the team. I do feel for the reast of the boys. It sucks to have it come crashing down on you because of a bad choice made by another

  6. Crazy Joe says:

    Sure smoking is not a wise choice but it is not illegal, give the man a break.

    1. ahab says:

      When you sign up to play a Minn High School League sport, you also must read and sign a paper promising not to use tobacco, alcohol and other controlled substances. If you have a problem with the smoking rule, take it to the League, not to the person enforcing the rule. I don’t know about the details of this case, but if he was actually smoking, he is out for a certain number of weeks.

  7. Richard Cheese says:

    People make mistakes & I’m sure it’s easier to make poor choices if you are living at a facility for at risk youth. Give the kid a break.

    1. Jon T. says:

      Then give it to them all who F-up.
      Heck – if you lose a game and feel it unjust ask for a do over too.

      A Rule and contract is that – a Rule that you agree to abide by.
      I feel for the kid, really do but he messed up.
      End of story.

      Or not – maybe Amy Senser gets a do over too huh? She also is an adult and …..
      give it up people, give it up

      1. LusciousDC says:

        I totally agree with you. But what would impress me even further is putting in the rules that the act the student is being accused of has to be proven. That is the only problem I have with this story. No one is going to volunteer to take a UA just to pop dirty. Doesn’t make sense. Like I said in a earlier post, I’ve known adults to lie on kids.

        1. I'veseenit says:

          I’m a teacher. Kids who get caught red handed lie all the time. And they will volunteer to take what ever test (urine, tobacco, lie-detector, anything) will make them look innocent by volunteering to take it. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

  8. Fantastic Sam says:

    Cigarettes are cool.

  9. PAK says:

    Most schools have an atletic policy in place which you sign smoking is against that code plane and simple. Never fair when it works against you…..

  10. red says:

    If he was in trouble before, who is to say he really was not smoking, despite his word. There are rules when you are on a sports team just saying. If he was smoking to bad loser

  11. AD says:

    Getting caught with a chemical violation does NOT kick you off the team. Their first offense is a 2 game or 2 week penalty, whichever is longer. Any further offenses result in more severe penalties. While some schools have stricter policies, that is the guideline put out by the MSHSL.

    For those on this board that think that it is no big deal– Each student that participates in any MSHSL activity signs a form each year explaining all the rules and punishment for violations. The parents sign this also. It is a pledge to follow the established MSHSL rules and code of conduct.

    If a student-athlete has a picture on Facebook that shows them drinking/smoking/etc., and it is brought to school authorities, punishment does occur. I am an AD, and I while I don’t police Facebook, things have been brought to me, and consequences do result.

  12. Coaches spouse says:

    Hmmm – I can say I know baloney when I read or hear it.
    Funny part is my hubby actually coaches against the HHS squads all the time. No – I am not so dumb as to name our school.
    HHS currently has the Stahl kid off the team – he allegedly was with a GF who had a bottle of wine in the glovebox of her car. The school went proactive and suspended the player and then notified the MHSL. At the start of the State Tournament. I think everyone realizes how hard that can be for the teams affected but that was how Coach Novak did it.
    Another player who was their 6th man was tossed off the team for disciplinary matters (non-school matter but parental call) some weeks ago.

    Seriously – when someone like you speaks in a public forum and starts slandering a program and conference maybe you need to go face to face and on the TV or media so all know whom you are. And can sure your rear off in a slander or libel claim.
    There – I am done with my rant. You need to get a live. One suspects you must have missed making the team or were somehow jilted by someone associated with the same. Pretty sad individual you are it appears.

    1. joe says:

      Thanks for the update of Hopkins basketball players. Did not know these details. Maybe all the “recruiting” and open enrollment is not such a good idea.

      “whom” should read who
      “sure” should read sue
      “live’ should read life

      1. Jon T. says:

        joe – you employed? thought not.
        cya sucka

      2. Joel says:

        LMFAO – and Joe is Joe.
        Not a joe.

        ……. cheers and have another round … on yourself. lol

    2. a good reaming says:

      Sounds like your hubby got another woman to ” coach “

  13. Bill G-A-R-R says:

    Thank god he lives here and not Florida. Some creepy fat guy might have just shot him to death and got away with it.

  14. jonny5 says:

    why is this in the news? he is a delinquent

    1. Marty says:

      Why is he there lil’ jonny5?
      He take your spot on the team did he?

    2. LusciousDC says:

      So according to your logic, or lack there of, he doesn’t deserve ANY chances? I sincerely hope you or yours don’t ever mess up.

  15. matt says:

    Why is this news and why are people making such a fuss about it? This same scenario happened in my high school and neither the local nor any major news outlet covered it.

    1. Eric says:

      This is in the news and your school wasn’t becuase this is about a 7’0″ player who is one of the best in the entire state and a Division 1 prospect not some 5’0″ guy that just sits on the bench and hands out towels to the people who actually play.

  16. joe says:

    Coaches spouse:
    Hmmm “Me thinks she does protest too much.” Oh and by the way, learn how to spell.

  17. Robin says:

    Who cares! There is a lot worse he could be doing. It says he’s an at-risk youth. One of the only positive things in his life is basketball. Now you are gonna take that away? Bogus! 20 years ago, many high schools had indoor smoking lounges for their students.

    1. Riddlin says:

      Damn I guess it has been that long. I smoke, I dont like it. Although, kid gets caught once and they ban him. The country has gone to hell.

    2. Joel says:

      And 100 years ago they hung blacks and Native Americans. What is your point?

  18. tan pup says:

    All I can think of when I read all the posts is the song by Brownsville Station “smokin in the boys room” and remembering the HUGE window in my old high school restroom and all the butts on the roof. Sometimes I would see a teacher next to that same window. At times when the principal would try to catch some of the guys smoking, they would climb out and hide on the roof. It was one of those old schools built in the 20s. I don’ t think it’s a good idea to smoke, but I do believe this is going too far.

  19. billy says:

    I’ve been waiting for someone to say this is racist.

    1. Kevin says:

      Me too……….

      1. LusciousDC says:

        WHY? It wasn’t about race. It’s people like the two of you that make every issue a racial issue. What? You had witty things to impress us with? Grow up!

  20. MNBenny says:

    Keep kicking this kid while he’s down, or keep kicking him to keep him down, if the coach said he wasn’t smoking and he says he wasn’t and you have no proof then I would err on the side of this kid who might havea future and is trying to make up for past mistakes.

  21. Kevin says:

    I am more surprised that something called Akolda Manyang lives in Duluth……..

  22. mark says:

    So accused of smoking, but willing to take a drug test to prove he’s Innocent. The officials would rather take some other peoples word that use science?

  23. Semper Fi says:

    Regulation regulation regulation. We start Indoctrinating them early. He should get used to it. This is where the united states of amerika is headed.

  24. Marty says:

    I can tell you about anything Hopkins related … what do you want to know?

    You might want to take a look at the Lake Conference rosters. Minnetonka has 6 open enrolled players, Eden Prairie 3, Wayzata and Hopkins none.
    Recruiting?? My son played football for Grant in EP. We live in Minnetonka. Our school is Hopkins. My kids never played hoops.Oh – wordpress here on wireless seems to leave some typos for me when I type fast so I have to sloooow it down , kinda like your mind is there lil’ joe. That should be Joe, right? 😉

    How’s them apples lil’ Joe? LMAO

  25. Pavel says:

    Likely he was smoking. Doing so during the activity season is stupid and even more stupid to do it in public. Lots of athletes smoke during their sports season, but are not so dumb to get caught. This one got caught. Don’t expect him to be honest. The coach is stupid to state that he is sure the kid was not smoking. He needs to grow up too!

    1. david says:

      u dont know what ur talking about so u need to grow up seruously

  26. TC says:

    When I was in high school [five years ago], the jocks would chew because they didn’t want to get caught smoking. They just didn’t get “caught” because it wasn’t noticeable. Maybe they should just test them all randomly. I bet most of them wouldn’t pass!

    1. Joel says:

      Some schools do just that – UA’s at random. I think it’s a great idea – keeps those dedicated to something on track and in time they get smart w/o a UA.
      I believe it is called maturing. 🙂

  27. LusciousDC says:

    For anyone who signs a contract…live up to what you signed. Now, if, in fact, the staffer was wrong; they should have tested him. It’s a matter of he said/she said. I’ve had experienced adults actually lying on students. So it’s still pretty much he said/she said. BEFORE steps are taken, the player should have been given a chance to prove his innocence. Should have given him the test. Them NOT giving the test makes me think that there’s BS in the mix..

  28. Dave says:

    Simple blood test will tell if he was smoking or not. If the rules say no smoking, his age doesn’t matter-he must face the consequences of his actions. Let the facts determine the outcome.

  29. thizz says:

    wow I never knew a high school league could restrict players from smoking, an 18 year old at that. Seems pretty rediculous to me. I’m glad my hs hockey league didn’t have that rule, more than half my team wouldn’t have been able to play.

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