Neal's La Salle career imperiled by charges

Ex-Calvert Hall player surrenders in Philadelphia

July 10, 2004|By Ken Murray and Jeff Barker | Ken Murray and Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

Gary Neal's sophomore basketball season at La Salle University ended in March with a 1-for-11 shooting slump and a dreary, 55-42 loss to Rhode Island in the opening round of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.

At noon yesterday, when he surrendered to Philadelphia police on a variety of sexual-assault charges, including the alleged rape of a 19-year-old woman on the La Salle campus, Neal's once-promising basketball career was unraveling under the legal implications.

The former Calvert Hall and Aberdeen High star is one of two La Salle players charged in the June 24 incident involving a female student from the University of New Haven in Connecticut who was visiting the Philadelphia campus to work at a basketball camp. Michael Cleaves, a junior guard last season, turned himself in to police Thursday night.

Neal, 19, and Cleaves, 22, of Paterson, N.J., face charges of rape, simple assault, aggravated indecent assault and two counts each of unlawful restraint, reckless endangerment, false imprisonment, involuntary sexual intercourse, indecent assault and indecent exposure.

The university issued its first statement on the case yesterday, even though it already had notified its academic community a week ago that the two suspects were no longer enrolled in school or living on campus.

"These are serious charges, and if proven, are completely counter to the values and ethics that La Salle demands from its students, faculty and staff," said Brother Michael J. McGinniss, president of the Catholic school. "We are appalled by such behavior, and will not tolerate it from anyone."

The school also has placed Billy Hahn and John Miller, coaches of the men's and women's basketball teams, on indefinite paid administrative leave while it conducts a probe into allegations from an incident a year ago.

La Salle officials are trying to determine if Hahn, a longtime assistant coach at Maryland, and Miller discouraged a 20-year-old female La Salle student from reporting an alleged rape in April 2003.

Federal law requires schools to inform sexual assault victims of their rights to take their complaints to police.

Security on Campus, a non-profit advocacy group, is preparing a formal complaint against La Salle, asking for a federal investigation of the allegations that a victim was told to keep a sexual assault quiet.

S. Daniel Carter, a senior vice president of Security on Campus, said the complaint is being lodged with the U.S. Department of Education, which oversees the Jeanne Clery Act, a six-year-old law requiring disclosure of campus crime information. It is named after a Lehigh University student raped and murdered on campus in 1986.

"We see cases like this all over the country where they try to protect their star athletes, and they should be educating them instead on what rape is," said Catherine Bath, executive director of the Philadelphia area group.

Neal grew up in Aberdeen and played two seasons under coach Richard Hart before transferring to Calvert Hall. As a sophomore at Aberdeen, he scored the game-winning basket in the state Class 2A championship game against Gwynn Park.

"At times, he was exceptional [as a shooter]," Hart said. "And streaky. But you could tell that given the work he eventually did put in, he could be a tremendous shooter."

Calvert Hall coach Mark Amatucci said he hadn't spoken with Neal or his family since the arrests were made.

"Regardless of the circumstances, I am completely supportive of him and will continue to treat him like a member of the Calvert Hall family," Amatucci said.

In 56 games with La Salle, Neal, a 6-foot-4 guard, scored 1,041 points, averaging better than 18 a game. He was prone to magical highs and numbing lows. He scored a career-high 37 points as a freshman against Xavier, but he also had a 1-for-14 drought against the same team as a sophomore.

He hit eight of 10 shots in the first half of a game against Mount St. Mary's, but he also had games in which he went 2-for-10 and 3-for-15.

Neal was named the Atlantic 10's Rookie of the Year as a freshman and was twice second-team all-conference.

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