ELKHART — The game that is basketball has collided with the reality that is money.
In this case, money has conquered.
Cory Waycaster, a junior basketball standout at Elkhart Christian Academy, will not be returning to the school after the current winter break and will instead enroll within district at Jimtown High School due to family financial reasons, according to his father.
“When I discussed it with Cory, he was down,” Jim Waycaster acknowledged Wednesday afternoon of his son.
“Obviously, he wanted to finish his career at ECA, with friends he’s been playing with since junior high age,” the senior Waycaster said. “He was very disappointed, but also very understanding. He even said, ‘It’s OK, Dad, there’s more important things than basketball.’ I’ve been reluctant, but that made me feel a little better about this decision.”
Jim Waycaster said enrollment costs for his son at ECA are “close to $5,000 a year” after financial aid and have become prohibitive.
Jim Waycaster is employed in the RV industry, “and we’ve shut down the production facility quite a bit” lately. He had two weeks off without pay in December and is off again this week.
Jim and wife Terressa have eight children at home ranging in age from 7 to 21. That includes an 8-year-old foster child they recently adopted and a 7-year-old grandchild. Terressa does not work outside the home, according to her husband, because two of the children have special needs.
It was not immediately clear if Cory Waycaster would be eligible to play at Jimtown right away once the school comes off its winter break Monday.
Indiana High School Athletic Association sports information director Jason Wille said students transferring in mid-year are often eligible to play immediately at their new school, but not automatically so.
“The IHSAA always reserves the right to look into something further if we receive (objecting) information,” Wille said.
ECA coach Ryan Culp said ECA has no intention of contesting the transfer.
“I have no idea,” Jim Waycaster said of whether his son would be eligible. “This is all new to me, but when we made this decision, we discussed the possibility that he might not be able to play the rest of the season. It would be great if he could join their team and play, but we’ve made the decision (regardless).”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Cory Waycaster had not directly said a formal goodbye to the Eagles (5-1), who play Thursday, Jan. 3, at Triton.
“Obviously, Cory has been a great asset to our program and will be greatly missed,” Culp said. “He was a big part of our offense, a big presence defensively and is a very well-rounded player with a high basketball IQ.
“As far as our team goes,” Culp continued, “I was able to share with them what Cory’s dad shared with me, and now we have to make adjustments. I think we’re going to hit a few bumps without Cory on board, but those are also opportunities for growth. We have to come together and have some guys step up.”
Culp said senior Jack Walters would replace Waycaster in the starting lineup tonight.
A 6-foot-4 swingman and third-year starter whose summer activity was limited by a knee injury, Waycaster was nonetheless averaging 13.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.2 steals for the Eagles this season, each figure ranking first or second on the team.
As a freshman, Waycaster averaged 13.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals. His 276 points were the fourth-highest by a freshman in Elkhart County history.
As a sophomore, he averaged 14.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.7 steals.
Ryan Kupferschmid (355 points), Waycaster (295) and Kenny Bearss (157) combined to form the highest-scoring trio of sophomore teammates in county history last winter, breaking a 56-year-old record and pacing ECA to a 13-8 mark that matched the program’s best record in its eight years as an IHSAA member.
That trio also helped the Elkhart County Hawks go 40-0 and win the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championship in the 14U age division in 2010.
“We’ve prayed about this decision for some time,” Jim Waycaster said. “We love ECA and the people there, but feel this decision is God’s will for now. I know Cory will do well wherever he goes. He’s a good kid, strong academically and will be a role model to others wherever he goes.”