Tyree Evans, a sweet-shooting, 23-year-old recruit with a history of legal troubles, signed with the University of Maryland last month but can't be admitted until a disciplinary office reviews his criminal misdemeanors and makes a recommendation to the admissions office, school officials said yesterday.
Evans, who has bounced from high school to prep school to two junior colleges, must wait as another school decides whether to gamble on a young man whose talent has intrigued multiple colleges but whose background has frightened many of them away.
Maryland athletic officials wouldn't estimate how long it would take for the disciplinary review and final admissions decision on Evans.
Maryland coach Gary Williams has emerged as Evans' champion, and the risky move came initially without athletic director Debbie Yow's involvement. The coach said his instinct and years of experience tell him Evans can succeed.
Yow told The Sun yesterday she didn't know Maryland was recruiting Evans, who has misdemeanors in his past for marijuana possession and a prep school assault.
"After Tyree was offered the scholarship recently by the basketball staff and he had verbally committed, I learned that we were recruiting him and of two misdemeanor convictions," Yow said in written responses to Sun queries. "Coach Williams' strong desire was to allow the prospective student-athlete to be considered for admission."
Yow said in her statement that generally "if a coach learns that a prospect has had any issue that would be considered serious in nature they cease recruiting the individual."
All applicants, including non-athletes, must be reviewed by the Office of Student Discipline if they have been found guilty of any violation of the law, according to Yow. She emphasized Williams' "strong desire" to allow Evans to apply.
"Coach Williams has clearly indicated his intent to personally mentor Tyree, should he be admitted to Maryland. That commitment is critically important in considering this situation," Yow's statement said.
But Williams said: "I wouldn't bring him in here if I thought he needed special attention to make sure he doesn't do something wrong."
Interviewed yesterday, Evans said he can't wait to get to College Park to begin the life he has long aspired to as a major-college basketball player. "The past is the past. I'm proud to be a Terp," he said.
Evans, a 6-foot-3 guard, said he's enrolling in the summer term and plans to room during the season with Greivis Vasquez, the starting guard. Evans has two years of eligibility remaining.
He initially told a reporter he had already been admitted, then called back several hours later to clarify. "I had a misunderstanding," he said.
Evans, who made 44 percent of his three-point shots last season at Motlow State (Tenn.) Community College, "deserves the opportunity to be successful in life," Williams said. "I've gotten to know Tyree very well and just feel he's put himself in a position where he gets a chance to see if he can get that done. I based that on 30 years as a head coach and being careful about who I take."
Last year, Evans was charged with felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. He ended up pleading to a misdemeanor marijuana charge and was sentenced to 12 months in jail. All but one month was suspended contingent on good behavior and community service.
In 2006, Evans pleaded guilty to a reduced assault-related misdemeanor after being accused with others of statutory rape of a 15-year-old female classmate at The Winchendon School, a Massachusetts prep school, in 2004. "I didn't even touch her," Evans said yesterday.
Cincinnati backed off Williams after news of the prep school case broke. The Bearcats were then coached by Bob Huggins. "That's like a father figure right there," Evans said. He said he hoped to follow Huggins to Kansas State in 2006, but the school didn't give him the chance.
Williams said he has never recruited a player with a felony. Of Evans' misdemeanors, the coach said: "People are allowed to change. They're allowed to get more intelligent as they grow."
Citing a recent article on Maryland and Evans by SI.com, Williams suggested it was unfair to single out the Terrapins when plenty of schools recruit players with troubled pasts.
"Because we take one in 19 years, we're doing something wrong here?" said Williams, Maryland's coach since 1989.
Earlier this year, an academic committee at Maryland voted 4-1 to give Evans one of 27 athletic department slots reserved for applicants who might not meet the usual academic standards, school officials said.
But the admissions office will make the final decision.
Tom Konchalski, a New York-based recruiting analyst, said Maryland didn't need to recruit Evans.
"Gary Williams is a terrific coach. He doesn't have a great stomach for recruiting," Konchalski said. "He's won without having McDonald's All-Americans. To me, he doesn't need this. It doesn't make sense, bringing in a kid with this many strikes against him."
Evans would bring three-point shooting to a team that needs it. Maryland received a positive recommendation on Evans from Bobby Steinburg, the coach at Motlow, where Evans averaged 21.1 points and 5.1 rebounds.
"The problem with Tyree is that he's always had cling-ons. He had an entourage in high school and he was too immature to be able to handle that and most people are," Steinburg said.
Steinburg said a locker room brawl between Evans and a teammate had been overplayed.
"That stuff happens. I've never been a part of a team where there hasn't been some skirmishes," he said.