Maurice Young, a member of the St. Bonaventure men's basketball team embroiled in controversy since last week, said he is hurt by criticism against him and his teammates, who decided to forgo their final two regular season games after learning they would not be allowed to participate in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.
Speaking publicly for the first time since St. Bonaventure forfeited six regular season victories and was forced to relinquish its spot in the tournament for using an ineligible player, Young tried to explain why the players took the action that they did.
"It's hard [hearing the criticism], especially when people labeled us as quitters," Young said in a phone conversation yesterday. "I don't think that was what we did. We were taking a stand for what we thought was wrong. It's hard to hear people say you were a quitter.
"In retrospect, it wasn't the right thing to do, but sometimes you make decisions in haste. . . . The leadership [from the coaches, the athletic administration] wasn't there. We made a decision out of anger."
In a meeting in the team locker room on March 3, Coach Jan van Breda Kolff informed his players that the school had forfeited six conference wins because it had competed with Jamil Terrell, a transfer from Coastal Georgia Community College who did not meet the NCAA's core curriculum requirements. In addition, the players learned the Atlantic 10 presidents had banned the school from the conference tournament.
Young, a Mitchellville native who attended Bishop McNamara High School, said once van Breda Kolff informed the players about the punishment, he turned the meeting over to David P. Ferguson, the university's vice president for public relations.
"He [van Breda Kolff] just sat there on the floor with his head in his hands while the guy told us exactly what happened," Young said. "All 13 guys were distraught. . . . We definitely were mad. We figured if we had used an ineligible player that we were going to have to forfeit some games. We didn't think we were going to be eliminated from the A-10 tournament. That was the big shock."
Later that day, several players decided they were going to go home for spring break rather than play their final two games. Although Young called it a "team decision," the Buffalo News reported yesterday that the seniors on the team wanted to play the games.
"It's our last year," senior forward Robert Cheeks said. "Why wouldn't we want to play? It's disappointing that we didn't get our senior night at home. But you can't make other people do something they don't want to do."
Asked if he had spoken to van Breda Kolff, Young said: "He hasn't been around through this whole situation."
On Sunday night, the St. Bonaventure Board of Trustees placed van Breda Kolff, athletics director Gothard Lane and assistant men's basketball coach Kort Wickenheiser -- a former DeMatha assistant coach and son of the university president -- on administrative leave. At the request of the trustees, St. Bonaventure president Robert J. Wickenheiser submitted his resignation that day.
On Monday night, the Board of Trustees chairman William E. Swan met with the players. Yesterday, Ferguson said that Robert Wickenheiser first addressed concerns over Terrell's eligibility in June. According to Ferguson, Lane brought concerns about Terrell's eligibility to the board of trustees at that time. According to Ferguson, Robert Wickenheiser responded to the trustees with a memo.
"Wickenheiser reassured the trustees that Terrell's transfer is not a problem," Ferguson told the Associated Press. "The trustees had no reason to question Wickenheiser, but never talked to him directly."
Interim head coach Billy McCaffery had scheduled a meeting for yesterday afternoon. Young said he still hasn't gotten answers to all of his questions and he continues to feel let down by the university.
Young is one of five Washington area players on the St. Bonaventure team. The other players are freshman guard Ahmad Smith (O'Connell), sophomore forward Cortez Sutton (Eastern), sophomore forward Patrick Methot-Lottin (Carroll) and freshman center Calvin Brown (Carroll).
Young, who transferred to St. Bonaventure from Virginia during the 2001-02 school year, hasn't made up his mind whether he will remain at the school and said he did not know of other players' plans. The Bonnies likely will face additional NCAA sanctions. For now, Young is continuing to go to classes.
"I'm going to wait and see what happens, see how this whole situation plays out then make a decision," he said.