Last week, the story of Jonathon Nicola, a star high school basketball player in Windsor, Canada who turned out to be almost 30 years old, went viral. Nicola, who traveled to Canada from South Sudan, was arrested by Canadian border officials after the truth about his age was revealed.
On Tuesday, Toronto Star immigration reporter Nicholas Keung wrote a new article on the Nicola story. The 6-foot-9 forward has a fairly simple explanation to a complicated issue: his mother never told him his real age, and in South Sudan, no one in the education system ever bothered to ask.
“I aways keep asking what is the specific age that I was born, and she has told me that she could not remember,” he told the April 19 hearing.
“Over (in South Sudan) . . . not every year we study . . . we always keep moving to different schools, and over there, they do not ask your age. They do not ask you nothing,” Nicola said.
According to Nicola, a coach in South Sudan prepared the papers that eventually allowed him to enter Canada as a teenager.
Nicola told officials he met a “Coach Steyn” in South Sudan who helped him with his application to Canada. He did not provide further details of how he met this coach, their relationship and where he is now.
“I told him, no, I was not born in 1998. I told him that I am too young for 1998. I’m not in 1998. Then he told me, ‘No, you go back ask my mother, ask my mother how old am I.’ And my mother she do not even remember. She told me 1993, 1990,” Nicola said at the earlier hearing.
“So I went back and this guy he just do me the paper . . . he did the whole papers. He did everything.”
Canadian immigration officials were alerted to the situation by Americans, who had previously denied him a visa. His visa application to the U.S. showed his birth year as 1986, rather than 1998, which was the year he presented to Canada. Nicola now faces another hearing in May to determine his fate, though he has expressed his desire to return to his family in Africa.