We caught wind of this bizarre story involving a high school star from Odessa, Texas (“Mojo!”), who may or may not be a 16-year old named Jerry Joseph, may or may not be an illegal immigrant from Haiti, and may or may not be a 22-year old named Guerdwich Montimere who already exhausted his prep eligibility in the mid-2000s in South Florida. Depending on whom you ask, he could be any one of those threee people or none at all. According to an ESPN report, Joseph, a 6’5 guard who was the regional newcomer of the year in that part of Texas in 2009-10, stands accused by coaches from the Ft. Lauderdale area that he is the same person (Montimere) who starred at Dillard HS and played for the South Florida Elite AAU team several years ago.
Cedric Smith and Louis Vives, coaches for the South Florida Elite AAU team, saw Joseph last month at an AAU tournament in Arkansas and are convinced that Joseph is Montimere. “I’m 100 percent sure. I would bet my paycheck,” Smith told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “We saw him. We’ve known Guerdwich since he was in seventh or eighth grade. The mannerisms were him. It doesn’t make sense. They have to do more investigations for me,” Smith told the newspaper. “It was shocking, and the question at hand was just why,” Vives told USA Today. “When I approached him, I just wanted to know what was going on. The surprised look on his face gave it away that it was him … Once he saw a Florida team and players and coaches who knew him, the look on his face was like, ‘Wow, what am I into now?'”
Fairly convincing, right? Problem is that we already saw this movie at least, oh, a dozen times, and any good narrative needs to have a significant plot twist to leave us wondering. Enter US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who got involved when the rumors started swirling about the true identity of the self-proclaimed teenager from Haiti. Its investigation found that Joseph and Montimere are not the same person, but wait for it… Joseph, who has no blood relative in the United States, may be living in the country illegally. This part complicates things even more — Jabari Caldwell, a former Dillard player with Montimere in Ft. Lauderdale, has been claiming that he was Joseph’s half-brother/guardian and was the person who walked Joseph into Odessa Permian to enroll him in classes there last summer. ICE says that Caldwell is in fact not Joseph’s kin, and as such, Joseph has no legal basis to be in America. For the time being, though, his coach at Odessa has taken him in for the purposes of getting him through the immigration hearings.
Whew. So who is this kid and where did he come from? And if Joseph is not Montimere, where is the 22-year old that nobody in Florida has seen or heard from in over a year? The Florida people are convinced that they’re the same person, and the link between Caldwell and Montimere/Joseph is more than enough to raise an eyebrow or two, but the ICE’s mandate is to track people who are very good at lying and they’ve cleared him. We’re not sure what to believe, but we’re anxious to sit back and watch the rest of it unfold. As the world gets flatter and connections between people from different corners of it more interconnected, even the End of the Earth known as west Texas is no longer a sanctuary for hideaways.