Harris says he still plans to attend La Salle in fall

Despite college scandal, St. Frances guard says he hasn't changed mind

College Basketball

July 14, 2004|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Undeterred by recent rape allegations against two former La Salle basketball players and the related suspension of the coach who recruited him, St. Frances guard Darnell Harris said this week he still will attend the Philadelphia university.

Harris, an All-Metro selection by The Sun last season after averaging 19.5 points a game for the Panthers, accepted a full scholarship in April to play at La Salle.

"I haven't changed my mind," Harris said of his commitment to the private Catholic school.

Since Harris signed his letter of intent, the La Salle basketball program has been jolted by scandal, starting with the alleged rape of a visiting 19-year-old female student by two of the team's best players, including Calvert Hall's Gary Neal, on June 24.

As a result of that, the university placed men's coach Billy Hahn and women's coach John Miller on indefinite paid administrative leave while it investigated allegations they had discouraged a 20-year-old female student from reporting another alleged rape by a men's player in 2003. The school said the action was not disciplinary.

In the meantime, Bill Dooley, an assistant coach hired by Hahn in May, is the acting head coach. Dooley, 44, is a former head coach at the University of Richmond and more recently Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pa.

Also added to Hahn's staff this spring was Stephen Stewart, a two-time Player of the Year in the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference for Coppin State. A Philadelphia native, Stewart coached last season at the University of Albany.

Dooley and Stewart replaced assistant coaches Roland Houston and John Gallagher, who took jobs at George Washington and Lafayette, respectively, after La Salle's 10-20 season.

Harris, a 6-foot-1 combination guard with a vertical leap of 38 inches, said he spoke with Hahn early last week before charges were filed against Neal and Michael Cleaves.

"[Hahn] just said we have to wait and see what happens," Harris said.

Harris' father, Pierre, a fire lieutenant in Baltimore City, said Darnell had already registered for the fall semester.

"It's a serious charge," the elder Harris said of the rape allegations. "[But] it doesn't have any effect at all in my opinion on Darnell. It's unfortunate for Gary Neal and the other young gentleman to be in that predicament. And [for] Billy Hahn."

Having gone through the recruiting process with La Salle, the elder Harris voiced his support for Hahn.

"When we met Coach Hahn, I think he's the kind of person who would do the right thing," Harris said. "I don't think he would [discourage a young woman from reporting an alleged rape].

"There's a lot at stake when you've got a job like that. You've got to do what's right, holding a big position like that."

Neal, 19, and Cleaves, 22, of Paterson, N.J., are free on bail and no longer enrolled at La Salle. Their departure, along with the loss of three senior guards from last season's team, leaves the Explorers with only four backcourt players on the roster, including two recruits.

In addition to Harris, Hahn also recruited Richard "Tabby" Cunningham, a point guard from St. John Neumann in Philadelphia.

Returning guards include 6-2 Jermaine Thomas from Thomas Johnson High in Frederick, and 6-2 Sean Neal from Springfield, Mass., both of whom will be juniors.

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