The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board says that a 6ft 9in (2.05m) basketball player who represents a school in Windsor, Ontario and claims to be 16-years-old is actually 29 or 30. Jonathan Nicola said he escaped war-torn South Sudan to escape violence in the country but his alleged deception came to light when he applied for a US visa.

Nicola has been playing for Catholic Central High School in Windsor where he has been living with head coach Pete Cusumano.

When Nicola first applied for a Canadian study permit he claimed he was 17. However, the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board told the Guardian, "When he recently applied for a US visitor visa, it was determined by fingerprint match that he was the same individual who had made a previous application to the US using a DOB of November 1, 1986."

On 15 April, Nicola was detained on suspicion of violating the Immigration Refugee Protection Act and is being detained after being deemed a flight risk. However a friend who helped him make his application to live in Canada says he still believes Nicola is 17 and the authorities have made a mistake.

Deng D'Awol, a Sudanese national who plays basketball in the US, said he was in shock. "As far as I know, he's a 17-year-old basketball player," he said. "That's as far as I know."

D'Awol said he is currently in South Sudan and when he visited Nicola's mother she also insisted he is 17.

"The only age I know of is 17 at the time," said D'Awol. "I saw his passport and his mother told me he was 17."

Nicola has played in many games for Catholic Central, potentially putting the school in an embarrassing position, but Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board spokesman Stephen Fields told the local Windsor Star all new players are checked before being allowed to play.

"We have a system of checks and balances in place that whenever international students are coming into any of our schools, we make sure that they have all of the necessary government documentation that they require in order to be in one of our schools," said Fields.