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Posted October 14, 2010

NCAA Investigating Baylor Men's Basketball

From The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, Calif.)

LA PORTE, Ind. — Kevin Kunst, the athletic director at La Lumiere School, said on Wednesday that the N.C.A.A. is engaged in a wide investigation of the Baylor University’s men’s basketball program that includes its recruitment of Hanner Perea, a forward from Colombia who is widely considered one of the best 25 high school juniors in the country.

FoxSports.com first reported the investigation on Wednesday, causing a stir among administrators at La Lumiere, a private school best known as the alma mater of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

The N.C.A.A. investigator Kristen Matha came here last month to question La Lumiere Coach Alan Huss. While Huss declined to reveal details of the conversation, Kunst said that the N.C.A.A. visit involved a larger investigation into Baylor.

“La Lumiere is not at question at all in any shape or form,” Kunst said. “This really has to do with what appears to be a significant, ongoing and much broader investigation of Baylor than this little thing. I think we’re the piece of a larger puzzle.”

The FoxSports.com article included a copy of a text message that was sent from the Baylor assistant Mark Morefield to Huss, saying that Baylor had the power to deport Perea if he did not go to Baylor.

“I guarantee you if he does [commit to another school] he will be in Colombia for the spring and summer and next year. Don’t forget it,” the text message said.

While Kunst would not say whether Baylor coaches were banned from his campus, he said that the message would have an impact on “how much we have interaction with Baylor.”

He added: “Is this what the world has come to? I understand college athletics is a serious business, and it’s a business that brings a lot of money to universities and that’s always going to bring out the darker sides of things. But this is a kid. He’s a kid, at the end of the day.”

Baylor Athletic Director Ian McCaw declined to comment by text message. Morefield and Baylor Coach Scott Drew did not return calls seeking comment.

Earlier this month, LaceDarius Dunn, a preseason all-American, was indefinitely suspended from the Baylor team after he was charged with felony assault of his girlfriend.

Drew has spoken with, but not retained, an El Paso-based lawyer, Jim Darnell, who recently represented the former U.S.C. coach Tim Floyd in the N.C.A.A.’s investigation into the Trojan basketball program.

“I don’t know that Coach Drew even needs a lawyer,” Darnell said. “He and I talked and visited about how these things work. I’ve been through this drill enough times to know how it works.”

Darnell added, “From what I understand, the focus would not be on Coach Drew.”

Matha, who is part of the N.C.A.A.’s Basketball Focus Group, spent a few hours last month with Huss.

“I can’t comment on anything,” Huss said, sitting on a bleacher in the school’s gym. “Literally, my job is on the line.”

In a telephone interview last week, however, Huss revealed the tenor of some of the N.C.A.A.’s questions.

“My impression of the N.C.A.A. is that they’re making a very concentrated effort to understand the system better and employ people who actually understand what’s going on,” Huss said.

“My impression is that they have a pretty good handle of what’s going on, and they’re trying to clean it up,” Huss said of N.C.A.A. investigations of men’s basketball programs.

He added, “I was amazed at how well they seem to have a grasp at what’s going on.”

Perea is a 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward known for his freakish athletic ability. He plays summer basketball for the Bloomington-based Indiana Elite program.

Although his college choices reportedly have been narrowed to Baylor and Indiana, Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee have also been mentioned.

Perea came to the United States through the A-Hope Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Bloomington, Ind., that has helped more than a dozen talented foreigners come to the United States and earn college scholarships. Kunst said that Perea is fine and in no danger of being sent overseas. (He would not allow Perea to comment.)

“I don’t think he was aware of it,” said Kunst, referring to the inquiry. “I think it was all above him.”

Administrators here are not concerned that the program is under N.C.A.A. scrutiny.

“We’ve obviously met and conferred and our understanding of the situation, as the best we understand it, is that this is really Baylor’s issue,” Kunst said.


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