Baylor starts new season under cloud

These are supposed to be good times for Baylor basketball.

Seven months after their best season in 60 years, the Bears

begin practice Friday with their star player suspended after being

accused of hitting his girlfriend and reports of an NCAA recruiting

investigation.

LaceDarius Dunn, the leading scorer from the team that fell one

game short of the Final Four last season, can practice but remains

suspended indefinitely from competition. He faces a felony charge

of punching his girlfriend and breaking her jaw, which she

denies.

Foxsports.com has reported the NCAA is investigating the Baylor

program over the recruitment of a high school player.

Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw did not return a telephone

message seeking comment Friday.

”It’s been a long two weeks,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. He

called the incident involving Dunn ”unfortunate,” and declined to

comment on the investigation allegations.

Student reaction has been mixed.

Walking across campus Friday, freshman Victor Manon said he and

his friends weren’t talking about the problems surrounding the

basketball team.

”It’s football season. That’s what people are talking about,”

Manon said. ”Maybe if we start losing or something.”

But K.C, Mangen, a junior who toted a basketball under his arm

outside the student life center, said Dunn shouldn’t be allowed to

practice until formally cleared of any charges.

Mangen said he and his friends find the allegations disgusting

and there’s a sense of ”Oh no, not again.”

Baylor, after all, is not that far removed from a scandal.

In 2003, Baylor player Patrick Dennehy was killed by teammate

Carlton Dotson, and the aftermath caught former coach Dave Bliss in

a tangle of lies and financial misdeeds. The NCAA eventually

hammered the program, taking away Baylor’s nonconference schedule

in the 2005-2006 season after first considering a full-season

ban.

”There’s a big sense of that and a lot of distaste for what

people are hearing,” Mangen said, noting two football players also

were recently arrested on minor drug charges.

Drew encouraged Baylor fans to support the program.

”We’re all human, we all sin, we all make mistakes. Jesus said

it best, he who is without sin cast the first stone,” Drew said.

”We’ll try to grow, we’ll try to improve. Obviously, we want to

make the school proud, but at the same time, I don’t think any of

us said we’re perfect.”

The Big 12 coaches picked Baylor to finish fourth in the league

and Dunn’s absence would be a major blow if it lasts for long. He

was a second-team All-Big 12 pick last season while averaging 19.6

points and 4.8 rebounds for a team that set a school record for

wins with 28. He decided to return for his senior season instead of

entering the NBA draft.

Since taking over for Bliss, Drew was been slowly rebuilding the

program by attracting top recruits like Dunn.

Those recruiting methods are now reportedly under scrutiny.

Kevin Kunst, athletic director at La Lumiere High School in

Indiana, told The New York Times that the NCAA has asked the school

about Baylor’s methods recruiting Hanner Perea, a junior who

transferred to La Lumiere from Colombia, over the summer.

Foxsports.com reported that Baylor assistant coach Mark

Morefield suggested in text messages that Baylor could have Perea

deported if he did not sign with Baylor. Kunst has not returned

messages left at his office Thursday and Friday.

The timing of the texting allegations is troubling considering

they were from July, just weeks after Baylor’s probation from the

Bliss-era infractions had ended.

Drew said Morefield remains on his staff.

Dunn’s problems began Sept. 27, the day Waco police said he

broke the jaw of Lacharlesla Edwards, and he was arrested Oct. 5 on

a charge of felony aggravated assault.

Edwards, however, has said through statements issued by her

attorney that Dunn did not break her jaw and wants the charges

dropped. Police have submitted the case to the McLennan County

district attorney’s office to determine whether to proceed.

Baylor officials had suspended Dunn from class but agreed this

week to reinstate him. Dunn’s attorney has said Dunn is on track to

graduate next May.

Junior guard Quincy Acy refused to comment on Dunn’s absence

from the eligible lineup.

”When the season gets here, we’ll see. It’s not here yet,” Acy

said

Baylor’s first game is Nov. 12 against Grambling State.

The Bears should get a boost from UCLA transfer J’mison Morgan,

who was granted an NCAA waiver allowing him to play immediately

without sitting out a season.

The 6-foot-10 junior center comes in after Baylor lost two

starting post players, including Ekpe Udoh, who was the sixth

overall pick by Golden State.

Sophomore guard A.J. Walton said the Bears should expect an even

better season than the last one, which means nothing short of the

Final Four.

”(Expectations) are always going to be better than you were

last year,” Walton said.