Twenty-five-year-old Sidney Gilstrap-Portley successfully reimagined himself as a high school basketball star in an effort to escape a troubled home life, according to an in-depth report by Sports Illustrated. Gilstrap-Portley was arrested and charged last year for tampering with government documents in pursuit of his new identity as a high school student.
Gilstrap-Portley told officials he was a Hurricane Harvey refugee and claimed to be homeless at the time.
“I’m Rashun Richardson, the Harvey refugee from South Houston High. I called yesterday,” he lied, standing at the registration desk at what would become his new high school. The school district in such situations was known to temporarily waive requirements for identification and other typical registration paperwork in such situations.
“He fooled us. He did,” said Hillcrest High principal Christopher Bayer. “It’s painful to even say that because it hurts in both ways.”
While attending Hillcrest High, Gilstrap-Portley — then 25 — posed as a 17-year-old student and successfully pursued a second shot at glory as a high school basketball star. The name he made for himself on the court would eventually be his undoing, as previous coaches took notice of the young man’s second tour through high school athletics.
After high school (the first time), Gistrap-Portley found himself struggling to advance in his basketball career, being widely regarded as a naturally talented player with a limited game who was difficult to coach. A stubborn nature and poor attitude had frustrated his initial legitimate efforts to succeed in the sport.
Gistrap-Portley found his stride and despite playing for an underdog team managed to stand out, frequently dialing back his performance to avoid attracting extra attention. That attention did come, however, and the emerging star found himself surrounded by 10 police officers in the middle of the night who took him to jail under the charge of tampering with government documents.
Ben Crump, a noted civil rights attorney known for representing high-profile families like those of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, is now representing Gilstrap-Portley.
“This was a basketball team that took all walk-ons,” Crump said. “To have [Sidney] show up was like having Michael Jordan or LeBron James show up at your high school. They were excited about the possibility of city championships, and they chose to not dot any i’s or cross any t’s.”
In addition to the document tampering charges, Gistrap-Portley is also facing scrutiny in light of his relationship with a female student during his time back in high school.