Law may force Dubuque basketball player off team - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Law may force Dubuque basketball player off team

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Domen Zevnik, 18, played Sunday with his traveling team the Mavs. He played this season for Dubuque Senior High School. Domen Zevnik, 18, played Sunday with his traveling team the Mavs. He played this season for Dubuque Senior High School.
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

One student in Dubuque helped bring his team to the state high school basketball tournament this season. It was a first time for the school in more than 30 years.

Domen Zevnik, 18, is a junior at Dubuque Senior High School, who led as point guard for his varsity basketball team this season.

A provision in the law, however, threatens to topple his future with the Rams.

"Point guard is kind of like the quarterback of football," Zevnik said Sunday, at a traveling basketball tournament in Dubuque.

For Zevnik, basketball is a way of life.

"I don't think there's been more than a week that I haven't touched a basketball or, you know, shot hoops or just played with my friends, pick-up game. I mean, I love the game of basketball," Zevnik said.

Any American in his size 11 shoes would be looking forward to playing as a senior for his beloved team. That is not the case for Zevnik, however: a citizen of Slovenia.

Zevnik is here on a student visa that allows him to attend high school and college in the states, but his host family only recently discovered a part of the law that threatens his future plans.

"Domen is here on an F1 visa," Zevnik's host mom Deb McConnell said. "The law clearly states that you can only be in a public school for 12 months, so we didn't realize that, so his 12 months are up."

McDonnell has been fighting to keep Zevnik where he is at Dubuque Senior.

"He's got so many friends. Everybody loves him there," she said. "He does good in school. You know, it's just a really good fit."

"I want to stay in Dubuque, obviously," Zevnik said. "It's been great fit so far and right now we're kind of at a dead end. We're just hoping for the best."

He spent his freshman and sophomore years at a private school in Florida before moving to Iowa in March of 2011.

Since he has hit his 12 month limit in a public high school, Zevnik's host family has explored every option to at least keep him playing with the Rams.

"We've tried home schooling, we've tried tri-state Christian, I've tried adoption," McDonnell said.

One by one, however, each option fell through, so now Zevnik faces attending Wahlert Catholic High School, which is Dubuque Senior's big in-town rival

"I'm a Ram," Zevnik said. "Next year I'll be Senior's biggest fan, wherever I go."

Another option includes Zevnik moving back to Florida.

"I think the main thing right now is for me to stay in Dubuque, stay with the family that I fit in perfectly with, I think," he said.

"He's just part of our family, so for him to have to leave, I don't know. I don't even want to comprehend it, but so we just keep pushing forward and pushing forward, like, I'm not giving up," McDonnell said.

Moving to any other school's basketball team for Zevnik's senior year, McDonnell said, would limit his time on the court.

"If he transfers, regardless of where he transfers, he sits 90 days, so he won't be able to play until mid-January," McDonnell said. "It's emotional on everybody. It's really hard. You know, when he's happy in a place and you just have to uproot him. It just doesn't make sense."

She said she has reached out to the offices of Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Zevnik goes home to Slovenia this month to visit his family. He needs a written commitment from a school before he can return to the states in August.

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