Twenty-four hours after he kicked star freshman Chris Washburn off his basketball team, North Carolina State Coach Jim Valvano said yesterday, "I think it's important that Chris not play basketball right now. He needs to go through a period where there are no lights, no fans and no media. His response to this situation will be crucial."
Washburn, a 6-foot-11 freshman from Hickory, N.C., is off the team after being charged Friday in Raleigh with second-degree burglary in connection with stereo equipment that a student reported stolen from his dorm room. Washburn was released on $1,000 bond pending a hearing Jan. 8. Valvano said regardless of the outcome, Washburn will not return to the team this season.
Washburn, considered the best high school big man in the nation last year when he averaged 30 points and 17 rebounds per game, has been in trouble before. Earlier this fall, he was convicted of misdemeanor assault and fined $25 in an incident involving allegations that he slapped a female student during an argument in her dorm room.
"My decision has nothing to do with the final outcome of this case," Valvano said yesterday in a telephone interview with Washington Post staff writer John Feinstein. "I don't believe this is a basketball issue, it's a personal one. Chris needs to learn about responsibility to himself and to others. He needs to take stock of himself. There have been enough incidents involving Chris that I felt he needed to understand that this is serious and that he needs to start learning.
"I told him that I've been there for him before when he was playing and I will be there for him now when he's not playing. I'm really saddened by this because I felt like Chris was making progress in a lot of areas."
Valvano met with Washburn Friday after taking him to police headquarters, where he was formally charged. Valvano said he first learned there was a problem Thursday night after returning from the team's Christmas visit to the Duke Children's Hospital.
Valvano said he told Washburn that he still has his scholarship and that he hopes he will return to school in January. He said Washburn's grades for the first semester were "satisfactory." Washburn left campus yesterday, Valvano said.
Washburn, who was the subject of several controversies during his high school career, was averaging 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds a game for seven games. State (6-1) plays next in New York's Holiday Festival this Thursday against Rutgers . . .
For the first time since starting his losing battle to win a fourth-year of eligibility to compete in NCAA Division I basketball, La Salle senior Albert Butts commented publicly on his disappointment.
"I've prayed a lot and talked to the guys on the team," said Butts, a 6-9 center. "I'm used to starting and playing a lot and all of a sudden, I have to just sit and watch."
Butts, who turned 24 on Dec. 11, was declared ineligible by the NCAA because of a rule that prohibits an athlete from competing for more than four years in a sport after his 20th birthday. Butts played one year at Frederick (Va.) Military Academy after turning 20 and played three years at La Salle.
On Thursday, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed by a 3-0 vote the U.S. District Court's denial of a preliminary injunction that would have granted Butts a fourth year of eligiblity.
"When I first learned of this rule before my sophmore year (at La Salle), I didn't believe that this could happen," Butts said. "Attorneys thought we could win. I never thought it would come to this point."
Butts said he had no plans to transfer to a Divsion II school, where the rule would not apply. Instead, he said, he will finish college at La Salle.
"It's been a struggle just staying academically eligible," Butts said. "Now, I'm so close to graduating, I'm not giving up." . . .
Tennessee State University basketball Coach Ed Martin announced his resignation after 17 years, saying he "felt like I was banging my head against a wall."
Martin, 58, complained of money problems at the school, but he said he had a number of reasons for resigning. His resignation, in a season that marked his 500th win as a coach, followed a 25 percent cut in the budget of the basketball program.