Archive for Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Stevenson stuf

July 4, 2001

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NBA straight out of high school.

Or at least he was

until last year, when the

Jazz used their

first-round pick on

California high schooler

DeShawn Stevenson, who

is scheduled to be

arraigned later this week

in Fresno, Calif., on a

felony count of statutory

rape.

"You could say, 'He's

20 years old, blah, blah,

blah.' That argues the

premise I've always

made: We shouldn't be

drafting these 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids," Miller said. "They can

develop their technical skills, but can they develop their social and

emotional skills to meet the rigors and demands of the NBA? That's a

big question, and I think we've got to start dealing with that."

NBA commissioner David Stern favors a ban on high schoolers in

his league, but the NBA Players Association is opposed, meaning it's

not likely to happen any time soon. Six prep players declared for last

Wednesday's NBA draft, and four were among the first eight

selections.

Miller, meanwhile, sides with Stern -- especially now.

"I'd love to find some limitation on the age that we can draft

players," he said. "(Last week's) draft scares the heck out of me, when

I look at the number of high school kids and (college) underclassmen.

"I think it sends a loud warning to us, if we're listening at all as

NBA management and owners, that, 'What are we doing to our farm

system?' I mean, you can call it what you want, but that's what

college has been to us." ill DeShawn Stevenson ever play another game for the Jazz?

The question looms, and it's a tough one -- even for Jazz owner

Larry H. Miller -- to answer.

Stevenson, 20, was trumpeted as a

star for the future when Utah selected

him in the first round of last year's

NBA Draft. The rookie's recent arrest in

his hometown of Fresno., Calif., on a

felony charge of unlawful intercourse

with a minor -- i.e., statutory rape --

threatens to dim that star.

How much, remains to be seen.

Asked if Stevenson, who is

scheduled to be arraigned Friday in

Fresno Superior Court, can ever play

for Utah again, Miller hedged.

"I think so," Miller said, "but not

under any circumstances.

"There's so many variables; we're

trying not to guess too much at them,"

he added. "So the first thing we have to

do is have a determination in the legal

system, whether it's a trial in front of

a jury, just a trial before a judge

without a jury or a negotiated settlement -- you know, plea bargain or

a reduction of the charges.

"If DeShawn's convicted in a worst-case (scenario) -- let's say it's

as bad as it can get, and it's as bad as it sounds -- it's a real problem

for us, because we have always said that we want this team to stand

for certain things, you want the team to represent certain things in

the community, we want the players to be role models."

Miller is obviously disappointed Stevenson is in this predicament.

"We don't expect them to be angels, but there's certain things

we've always stood for," he said. "Now, having said that, I think

DeShawn is a good guy. If it's what it's charged to be right now, he

made a very serious and, in my opinion, a very stupid mistake."

Stevenson surrendered to authorities in Fresno on June 19, then

was released on $5,000 bail.

According to a Fresno Police Department report, the Jazz guard

admitted in a tape-recorded telephone call with the victim's mother

that he had consensual sex with a 14-year-old girl.

Stevenson is charged along with his best friend, 19-year-old

former high school teammate and ex-Salt Lake Community College

player DeShawn Anderson, who is accused of having sex with a

15-year-old female friend of the 14-year-old.

The report alleges that on June 6 those four and a third male who

"only watched" partied at a Fresno-area Howard Johnson Motel, where

they drank brandy and Coke before the couples engaged in consensual

intercourse.

Neither Stevenson nor his representatives have publicly

commented on the matter since the arrest.

If convicted, Stevenson -- who allegedly has known the

14-year-old for four years -- faces up to three years in prison.

Miller seems to hope it doesn't come to that and that Stevenson

will be able to resume his career with the Jazz.

"My first choice, by

far, would be to have, as

the truth comes out, to

find out that it's really

not as bad as it sounds,"

he said, "(and) that there

were extenuating

circumstances where we

can justifiably -- now, I'm

not saying just 'put the

right spin on it' -- where

we can justifiably face

the media and the fans in

this market together, the

team and DeShawn, and

say, 'OK, the decision's

been made; here's what

the outcome was, and

now we're here to

announce that we're going

forward together.'

"That's what we want to do," added Miller, who has spoken with

Stevenson. "Now, whether or not we can be handed the ingredients by

the system, and by DeShawn, we won't know until the outcome of the

(judicial) action."

Asked if he was at all satisfied with Stevenson's explanation for

the incident, Miller said this: "I felt good about it to this extent, or

'satisfied' is a better word: That he 'fessed up to it. There were some

'Yeah, buts' -- that he didn't know the age, and so forth. I don't know.

I've heard so many different things, on so many different fronts. He

truly is repentant. But this is a pretty serious situation, and if it's

closing the barn door after the horse is out . . .

"At this point, I'm satisfied that he's sincere in wanting to get it

handled, to face up to it and to move on . . . and to deal with the truth,"

Miller added. "Now, I hope I'm not being naive in that. So, it still boils

down to 'the system has to take its course;' in the wake of that, we

have to make our decision."

Miller said he does not know how long it will take to adjudicate

the case, and added that if it doesn't happen right away, Stevenson

likely will be permitted to play later this month in the Rocky Mountain

Revue summer league.

"If it's not," he said, "we're going to take the approach that he's

innocent until proven guilty . . . If we don't have him here, then I think,

in our own way, that we've tried him before the court system's tried

him."

Whatever happens, Miller seems confident Stevenson will be able

to at least salvage his pro career.

"Whether he plays here or someplace else, clearly he's going to

play in the NBA someplace," Miller said. "He's too good not to."

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