Saturday, September 22, 2001

Little given second chance


Center reinstated with Bearcats

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Donald Little was headed to the locker room, eager to get on the court with the other University of Cincinnati players during open gym at Shoemaker Center.

        The 6-foot-11 center is part of the team again after being reinstated to the program Friday. He had been dismissed in May for conduct detrimental to the team.

        “I feel relieved,” Little said. “I'm in a good mood now. I've been waiting on the word all week. I was nervous. I've been nervous all day.”

        Little's return is not without provisions. He must:

        • Pay $3,150 toward his tuition and fees; Little said he is applying for student loans and his family is helping financially;

        • Attend anger management counseling;

        • Meet weekly with a counselor from the Dean of Students Office;

        • Stay out of establishments that serve alcohol;

        • Be on behavior probation by the athletic department.

        “It's all cool with me,” Little said. “I just wanted to get back on the team and graduate. I'll do what it takes. Now I've got to just shut my mouth and listen to Huggs.”

        Coach Bob Huggins dismissed Little after the second of two incidents in May.

        Little faced an assault charge after a May 3 incident at In the Woods Tavern and later pleaded guilty to persistent disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

        On May 19, Little was charged with speeding in a work zone, driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under a suspended license and possession of marijuana. Two months later, he pleaded guilty to lesser charges of reckless driving, having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle and not having his driver's license in his possession when he was stopped by police. The marijuana charge was dismissed.

        Huggins said Little's behavior “caused embarrassment for our basketball program” but said that after the courts took action “our penalty no longer fits the crime.”

        “I think we did what we should've done at the time,” Huggins said. “In retrospect, it's been a wonderful thing for him. Donald paid a price. I think it's really forced him to grow up and appreciate the opportunity that he has.”

        At least two factors aided Little's cause: His steadfast desire to remain at UC and his academic status.

        UC athletic director Bob Goin said he spoke with other athletic directors early in the summer and was willing to help Little find a school in which to transfer. But Little insisted that he wanted to return to the Bearcats.

        Little registered for summer school and paid for his classes. Goin said Little is on target to graduate before his eligibility expires. Little said he will start classes again Monday.

        “That is another major issue with me,” Goin said.

        “If I thought he was an evil kid, he wouldn't be here; that's for sure. This is nothing more than what you call a second chance. It all boils down to that. Maybe it's the grandfather in me coming out. I have to see the whole picture, and my opinion with Donald is he made mistakes. But I've been thoroughly appreciative of the remorsefulness that he's shown.”

        Little, who redshirted in 1998-99 and will be going into his junior season, has two years of eligibility remaining. He averaged 6.0 points and 5.6 rebounds last season, and started 13 of 35 games.

        But he should come in handy when Cincinnati opens the season at Oklahoma State on Nov.16. It was announced Friday that junior B.J. Grove, who took over as the starting center last season, has been suspended for the Bearcats' first game because he elbowed Alabama-Birmingham guard LeAndrew Bass in the head during UC's 73-70 victory in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA tournament March 8.

        C-USA commissioner Mike Slive said Grove's conduct “is a serious violation of Conference USA's code of conduct. Striking at or about the head of a player is not part of basketball and will not be tolerated.”

       



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