Sunday, March 9, 2003

Stone sits as NCAA again has questions

College basketball notebook: Wire transfers still issue for U of L Sr.

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Louisville center Marvin Stone sat out the final regular-season college basketball game of his career.

Louisville officials said Saturday - about four hours before the Cardinals were scheduled to play Charlotte in their regular-season finale - that Stone was being held out of action because of "a rules interpretation received from the NCAA."

NCAA investigators questioned the 6-foot-10 senior along with Louisville officials for four hours Friday about wire transfers of money sent to Stone from his mother and two sisters in Huntsville, Ala.

Dressed in black warmups, Stone got a standing ovation when he walked onto the court with his mother, two sisters and a cousin to receive a framed Louisville jersey as part of a pre-game ceremony for the team's four seniors.

Stone kissed his mother on the cheek before taking a seat at the end of Louisville's bench.

Lois Stone would not comment on her son's situation.

Louisville went on to beat the 49ers 100-59.

The school would not comment further on its decision to bench Stone, other than a brief statement from athletics director Tom Jurich.

"We're obviously extremely disappointed with the ruling," he said. "For this to happen on senior night to a team already short-handed is extremely disappointing. We will continue to pursue all avenues of this case."

Donald Jackson, Stone's attorney, said Saturday the NCAA is questioning the origin of $400 wired to Stone over his college career - at Louisville and at Kentucky, where he played from 1998-2001 before transferring.

"The NCAA believes the original source of those funds was some illicit source," Jackson said. "But everything came from his family."

The NCAA has been urging the school to withhold Stone from competition since it first questioned him on Feb. 23. The initial questions centered on Stone's relationship with Mark Komara, a Huntsville, Ala. businessman who was Stone's AAU coach.

The school benched Stone for last week's 82-76 win over East Carolina. The NCAA gave the school the go-ahead to play Stone on Tuesday - apparently clearing him of allegations that he may have accepted illegal benefits through Komara. Stone played in Wednesday's 79-76 loss at DePaul.

However, on Thursday, NCAA investigators requested another meeting with Stone inquiring about the wire transfers.

"It's a lack of understanding by the NCAA over the origination of the wire transfers," Jackson said. "They claim he violated his amateur status with the receipt of these Western Unions. But all of the Western Unions originated from family members, and these were not violations."

Stone started 19 games this season for Louisville, which has lost five of its last seven games. Stone has scored only 14 points in the three games in which he's appeared since the NCAA first contacted him.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino has been frustrated by the ordeal. Stone was his best post player and the team's second-leading scorer (10.6 points per game), rebounder (7.4 per game) and shot blocker (33).

Pitino was already missing leading rebounder Ellis Myles, who is out with a knee injury. Freshman Francisco Garcia has missed practice the last two days because of a groin injury.

Garcia participated in pre-game warm-ups, but didn't start Saturday's game.

"This is very bothersome because you can't organize your plan of attack," Pitino said Friday. "But it's my job as a coach to motivate, and no matter what the circumstances may be, we are going to motivate."

Jackson said the NCAA is trying to make an example out of Stone in an effort to enforce its rules for amateurism.

"The NCAA is looking for any justification to sit him down," Jackson said. "They're trying to prove a point - either to Marvin Stone or to all the universities across the country.

"The target of this can't be Marvin, because he's done nothing wrong," Jackson said. "Every indication is the focus is on the entire AAU and summer basketball league structure and on the interpretation of rules dealing with amateurism."

AUTOMATIC BERTHS: North Carolina Asheville is going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time, and the Bulldogs are the 17th team to make the field with a losing record. They used a 28-6 run over the last 14 minutes of the first half to beat Radford 85-71 in the championship game of the Big South Tournament.

Andre Smith scored 18 points for the Bulldogs (14-16), who never allowed Radford (10-20) to get closer than 10 points in the last 20 minutes.

• Corey Gipson and Anthony Davis each scored 13 points to lead Austin Peay to a 63-57 victory over Tennessee Tech in the Ohio Valley Conference championship game. The Governors (23-7) earned their fifth NCAA Tournament berth and third OVC title.

Tennessee Tech (20-12) had its winning streak end at six games.

• Troy State, in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament final for the second time in three seasons, beat Central Florida 80-69 to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Ben Fletcher a season-high 29 points for Trojans (26-5).

• Tim Smith, a 5-foot-9 freshman, scored 25 points as East Tennessee beat Chattanooga 97-90 to win its first Southern Conference Tournament title since a run of four straight from 1989-92. It clinched the first NCAA bid for the Bucs (20-10) in 11 years.

Ashley Champion and Josh Rogan had 27 points each for the Mocs (21-9).

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