October 13, 2007

Legal problems make coaches take action

Rivals.com has selected the top 25 storylines for the 2007-08 college basketball season and will be releasing articles daily, counting down from No. 25 to No. 1. The No. 24 storyline involves the mounting number of players who ran afoul of the law during the offseason.

No more late nights. No more night clubs.

That was the offseason message two coaches, Memphis' John Calipari and UAB's Mike Davis, sent to their teams after both programs had multiple players arrested this past summer. Calipari and Davis set up curfews and a rule barring their players from going to night clubs.

Calipari has since lifted the curfew the night club rule remains in effect but his original move highlights a growing problem in college basketball as a series of players got into trouble with the law during the offseason.

Duquesne, Missouri, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma State also were among the schools that had players run afoul of the law.

At Memphis, freshman Jeff Robinson and Iowa State transfer Shawn Taggart were both arrested outside a club in early September and charged with disorderly conduct and inciting a riot. Robinson was also charged with assault with the intent to do bodily harm. There was also a report that center Joey Dorsey started a fight inside the club. Robinson and Taggart have pleaded not guilty and await trial on Nov. 6.

Five UAB players, none of whom has suited up for the Blazers yet, were arrested at a Birmingham club in the early hours of Aug. 31. Junior guard Channing Toney was charged with physically harassing an officer. Junior guard Edward Berrios was charged with physical harassment and disorderly conduct. Sophomore forward Robert Vaden (who played for Davis at Indiana), sophomore forward Walter Sharpe and freshman center Keenan Ellis were each charged with disorderly conduct. Police also found that Sharpe had a warrant out accusing him of failing to appear on a case involving possession of marijuana. Ellis has since left school due to academic issues and enrolled at a junior college.

Davis chose not to suspend anyone, but says he disciplined the players. He later implemented an 11 p.m. curfew for all players.

Pittsburgh junior point guard Levance Fields, who tied for fifth in the Big East with 4.6 assists a game last season, may have been the most high-profile player arrested. Fields was subdued with a Taser gun when, police said, he tried to get a hold of an off-duty officer's gun at a Pittsburgh club on Sept. 16. Fields must serve 50 hours of community service and pay court costs. Coach Jamie Dixon said he will handle any punishment internally.

Duquesne forward Stuard Baldonado has been indefinitely suspended following two arrests within a five-day span, first on Aug. 31 for criminal conspiracy involving the manufacture, delivery or possession of a controlled substance. He was in trouble again on Sept. 5 for a misdemeanor drug charge. Baldonado was one of five Duquesne players shot at an on-campus dance last year. He is also facing charges in Miami for aggravated assault and false imprisonment.

Missouri coach Mike Anderson chose to kick senior power forward Kalen Grimes, the Tigers' leading rebounder, off the team after he was charged with second-degree felony assault.

Oklahoma State guard Obi Muonelo was arrested in Stillwater, Okla., in late June for being in a 21-and-older bar. Muonelo was 19 at the time.

Tennessee hasn't dealt with any arrests, but for the second consecutive year its starting center begins the season indefinitely suspended. Police found a small amount of marijuana in the room of sophomore Duke Crews, who reportedly had already failed one drug test. Former Vol Major Wingate was kicked off the team last year for failing multiple drug tests.

This is the first time in years that some of these schools have had to deal with these type of incidents. For others, like Memphis and Tennessee, it appears to be part of a disturbing trend. Whether curfews or prohibiting visits to clubs is the answer remains to be seen. At least there should be less time to get in trouble with the practice now officially under way.

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.


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