The comparisons are unavoidable and unfortunate.
Throw in unfair, too.
Three years ago, the Maryland Terrapins signed Dez Wells after he was expelled from Xavier team for alleged sexual assault. On Monday, Maryland signed Rasheed Sulaimon, who was dismissed from Duke’s basketball team and later accused of sexual assault.
Sadly, we have reached a point where claims can carry as much weight as convictions in the public’s eye. The taint never goes away completely, regardless of a case’s merits. The scarlet letter is “A” for accused and it’s virtually branded on foreheads.
Wells was never charged with assault – the county prosecutor argued he never should’ve been expelled – and he reached a settlement in his lawsuit against the school. Yet he was subject to “No means no” chants during road games and taunted by West Virginia coach Bob Huggins’ daughters.
Sulaimon was neither formally charged nor formally accused. A month after he became the first player dismissed in Mike Krzykewski’s 35 seasons as Duke coach, a story in the student newspaper suggested Sulaimon was booted because two female students said he sexually assaulted them. But no allegations were filed with the school or the police.
“My being dismissed from the team had nothing to do with the allegation,” Sulaimon told ESPN two weeks ago. “… The university investigated the sexual assault allegation, and they knew it was unsubstantiated so Coach K knew that, too, because I told him.”
Coach K announced in March that Sulaimon was dropped because he couldn’t “consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program.” But the junior guard remained in school and in good academic standing, on track to graduate in August.
Duke kicked him off the team but let him remain in the family.
Now coach Mike Turgeon welcomes Sulaimon to Maryland’s family, a move he couldn’t take lightly.
Turgeon had to be comfortable with the player as a person. He had to be at peace with the conclusion some critics will reach, that College Park is a refuge for accusants. That’s not the reputation Turgeon wants at Maryland, where Gary Williams’ program was considered a model of cleanliness.
“I’ve known Rasheed and his family since he was in the seventh grade, first meeting him when he attended our basketball camp at Texas A&M,” Turgeon said in a statement. “He was a very polite and poised young man and I recruited him while I was at Texas A&M because of his commitment to both academics and athletics.
“…During our conversations with Rasheed and his parents, Kenny and Angela, Rasheed expressed the importance of proving that he is committed to being a great student-athlete and a selfless teammate. I have full confidence that Rasheed will embrace this opportunity at the University of Maryland.”
Turgeon is sticking out his neck for Sulaimon’s talent but the coach must believe in his character as well. The long relationship helps. So does the fact that Sulaimon landed at Duke in the first place.
Maryland was among more than a dozen schools that reportedly contacted him, including Arizona State, Baylor, Colorado, George Washington, Houston, LSU, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Seton Hall, SMU, Texas and Texas A&M. He has a year of eligibility left and is expected to play immediately.
Turgeon doesn’t have to justify Sulaimon’s addition on the court. The 6-foot-5 wing earned ACC All-Freshman honors in 2013 and averaged 9.9. points and 2.4 assists as a sophomore before being relegated to a lesser role last season. With him plus All-Big Ten point guard Melo Trimble, wingman Jake Layman, Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter and blue-chip recruit Diamond Stone, the Terps will be a Top 3 team in preseason rankings and favorites to win the Big Ten.
“I don’t think there’s any question that they’re going to be the team to beat,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told the Detroit Free Press.”Sulaimon brings something to the table.”
What he should leave in Durham is the sulking he exhibited over the last two seasons. His production and his attitude declined steadily as he went from 33 starts as a freshman to zero starts as a junior.
“Emotionally, his sophomore year and last year prior to the dismissal, every time he met some minor adversity, a bad call or a missed shot, his emotions were so obvious,” longtime TV analyst and former Maryland star Len Elmore told The Baltimore Sun. “He really got upset about a lot of things and when he got taken out of a game, he would go sit on the bench and pout.”
Sulaimon said his frustration grew last season as freshman Justise Winslow earned a starting spot on the wing and emerged as a star. “I realize now I could have and should have handled things drastically different, but what’s done [is] done,” Sulaimon told ESPN. “I have no quarrel with Coach K and I’m looking for a fresh start to finish my college career after I graduate from Duke.”
It’s the same “fresh start” that Wells was afforded … just like Carter, Logan Aronhalt, Varun Ram, Evan Smotrycz and Richaud Pack.
They’re all Turgeon Transfer Terps.
Ultimately, that’s the only comparison worth mentioning.