Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Twyman’s athletic future again uncertain

Sherwood grad considers transfer after Ball State head coach resigns

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Deontay Twyman got only two months to enjoy a feeling of certainty about his athletic future. On July 12, it was cast into doubt again.

The recent Sherwood High graduate accepted a scholarship offer to play men’s basketball at Ball State University on May 11. Two months and a day later, the head coach who recruited him to Muncie, Ind., Ronny Thompson, abruptly resigned after a single season. Nearly two weeks after that, Twyman is stuck in a holding pattern.

‘‘I’m still undecided” about what to do, Twyman said. ‘‘I’m not sure about pretty much anything.”

Thompson, the younger brother of Georgetown head coach John Thompson III, stepped down in the midst of two investigations involving the Cardinals’ men’s basketball program. The National Collegiate Athletic Association is investigating reported rules violations by Thompson and his staff, while police are investigating the source of racially charged notes left in the offices of Thompson, who is black. The school is also reviewing both incidents.

Twyman is part of an incoming men’s basketball class of eight players. He is one of three Thompson added late in the signing period, after three guards who were due to return all chose to transfer.

Now Twyman is considering leaving, too. Normally under NCAA rules, an athlete who transfers from one Division I school to another must sit out a year, though the situation becomes murkier when a coach leaves. Twyman does not want to spend a year on the sidelines.

‘‘[Transferring] is what I’m thinking right now, but I’m not trying to rush into anything,” he said. ‘‘I don’t know what the regulations are as far as transferring if your coach leaves. ... I’m trying to figure everything out as far as if I would have to sit out a year if I was to leave.”

Complicating the situation is that Twyman has already enrolled at Ball State and took two classes — sociology and music history — during the summer semester. He also took part in weight lifting with the team during his five-week stay. He just returned home this past Sunday.

The Star Press in Muncie has reported that Ball State athletics director Tom Collins will not release any recruits until a new coach is in place, and that players who, like Twyman, have taken classes at the school must sit for a year if they want to transfer.

Sherwood boys basketball coach Dondrell Whitmore said that Twyman would wait until a new coach was named before reconsidering his options.

‘‘We did tell him to just stick around, because you never know who that new coach is going to be,” Whitmore said. ‘‘He’s just trying to weigh his options.”

Whitmore coached Twyman for just one season, and together they led the Warriors to the 2007 Class 4A state title. Twyman scored approximately 1,250 points in three varsity seasons. When it mattered most, the 5-foot-11 guard scored 22 and 26 points, respectively, in the state semifinals and finals. He capped his high-school career with his first state championship and first All-Gazette Player of the Year award.

Twyman was also a standout football player. In three years as the varsity quarterback, he passed for 7,062 yards and 80 touchdowns, the highest totals on record in the county in both categories. He led the Warriors to state runner-up finishes in his junior and senior seasons.

The six varsity teams on which he played won a combined 80 games and lost just 31.

Twyman’s college search lasted until nearly the end of his senior year. He learned on May 5 that his score on the ACT test had qualified him for a Division I athletic scholarship. Ball State offered immediately, and Twyman accepted, never thinking that Thompson’s time in charge was almost up.

In May and June of 2006, Thompson and his coaching staff were found to have been present during a voluntary off-season workout, a rules violation the university self-reported to the NCAA, according to Ball State spokesman Tony Proudfoot. The program received a reprimand.

This past May, Proudfoot said, the University again found that coaches were present during ‘‘open gym” workouts and weight training. In a statement announcing Thompson’s resignation, Collins said the coach ‘‘expressed concerns about the recent NCAA investigation, as well as other issues.”

One of the ‘‘other issues” is an incident that occurred over the weekend of June 23-24.

‘‘Student newspaper coverage of the violations had been copied and placed around various athletic facilities,” Proudfoot said. ‘‘Notes were placed in the offices of the basketball staff. The notes had three words on them: the ‘N’ word, liar and cheat.”

In response to the incident, two members of Ball State’s counseling faculty are conducting a ‘‘climate assessment” of the athletics department.

Meanwhile, the search for the Cardinals’ new basketball coach is underway. The Star Press reported that Thompson was hired three weeks after his predecessor left, and that Collins said it was reasonable to expect the current search to last roughly the same amount of time.

That means the program’s incoming recruits are likely in limbo until at least the middle of next week. Thompson’s staff of assistants is still in place, but until a new coach is named, there’s nothing Deontay Twyman and his new teammates can do but wait.

‘‘I kind of feel bad for him,” Whitmore said. ‘‘He trusted me, and everybody else involved with the process. I told him, ‘I guess you can’t control what goes on in the world.’ I’m just trying to be by his side as much as possible. And I think he’s just holding on to see what happens.”