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May 23, 2008
Around the Rim
A Cloud Over a Banner?

by John Perrotto

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The possibility of there being a stain on Kansas’ national championship exists because of an alleged grade-changing scandal at a Dallas high school.

Darrell Arthur, who spent the past two seasons as a forward with the Jayhawks and helped them beat Memphis in the championship game of the NCAA Tournament last month before declaring for the NBA draft, reportedly was the beneficiary of having mathematics grades changed while at South Oak Cliff High School, according to a report by Dallas television station WFAA.

Former South Oak Cliff math teacher Winford Ashmore told the Lawrence World-Journal that the Arthur allegations were “the tip of the iceberg” of improprieties under basketball coach James Mays.

“In this case, Darrell is not the villain,” Ashmore said. “He’s the victim, not the villain. A student is going to do just what the adults allow him to do.”

Mays denies the allegations. He said the only time Arthur had a grade changed was because of a clerical error by a teacher.

Ashmore alleged that Arthur benefited from grade changing multiple times throughout high school and that was the only way he was able to meet NCAA academic standards and qualify for a scholarship to Kansas.

South Oak Cliff was forced to forfeit its state championship in 2006, Arthur’s senior season, because the Dallas Independent School District determined one of his teammates had grades altered to make him eligible. The district is currently investigating claims that Arthur’s grades were changed.

Kansas associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said he does not believe the Jayhawks would be penalized if the reports are true.

“In our mind, we obviously had nothing to do with the situation,” Marchiony said. “The high school sends the transcript to the NCAA. The NCAA decides whether the player is eligible. The NCAA declared Darrell Arthur eligible. I can’t imagine a scenario where Kansas would be affected by this.”

Arthur averaged 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds a game last season.

Tar Heel Transfers

Forward Alex Stephenson, who was the first big man off the bench for North Carolina last season, has decided to transfer.

"My family is dealing with some health challenges at this time and as a result I have made the decision to transfer to be closer to home," Stephenson, a Los Angeles native, said in a statement released by the school.

Stephenson missed two games last season to be with his father, Art, who had heart problems. Stephenson becomes the first player to transfer since Roy Williams took over as the Tar Heels’ coach in 2003.

"I am extremely, extremely disappointed, but I feel so great about Alex that I understand his decision to transfer,” Williams said in a statement. “He is a wonderful kid. I thoroughly enjoyed coaching him and know that he would have contributed so much more in the next two years.”

Indications are that Stephenson, who averaged 4.3 points and 4.5 rebounds as North Carolina went to the Final Four last season, will likely transfer to UCLA, which recruited him heavily in high school.

In other transfer news, Iowa guard Tony Freeman has decided to leave the Hawkeyes to play at Southern Illinois. He has only one year of eligibility left after leading the Hawkeyes in scoring with a 13.8 point a game average last season.

Freeman told the Iowa City Press-Citizen that Hawkeyes coach Todd Lickliter strongly suggested that he finish his career at another school.

“I told the coaches I was thankful for them being honest with how they felt," Freeman said. "It just came late and caught me off guard. I had no idea where this was going. I'm glad they told me now, before the season started and we're playing and I'm not playing."

New Bison Coach

Bucknell decided to go the small-college route in finding a replacement for coach Pat Flannery, who retried last month to become a fundraiser for the Patriot League school.

The new coach of the Bison is Dave Paulsen, who led Williams College, his alma mater, to the 2003 Division III national championship. Paulsen has a 262-120 record in a 14-year career that also includes stints at LeMoyne and St. Lawrence.

“It takes something really special to leave Williams,” said Paulsen, considered one of the best teachers of the motion offense in the nation. “I really want to embrace the tradition of success Pat and his staff has created.”

Bucknell was 12-19 last season, ending a string of three straight seasons with at least 22 wins.

Paulsen will have two good guards to build his motion offense around in Justin Castleberry, who will be a senior, and Stephen Tyreee, who will be a sophomore. Castleberry averaged 10.9 points a game and Tyree scored 7.0. Tyree was 42nd in the nation in free throw rate (71.4) and 85th in effective field goal percentage (59.4).

Attendance Notes

The Big Ten led all conferences in attendance for a 32nd straight season with an average of 12,978 a game, according to figures released by the NCAA. The Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East Conference and Big 12 Conference also averaged more than 10,000 a game.

Meanwhile, Kentucky had the nation’s best home attendance for a third straight season with an average of 22,554 fans a game. North Carolina (20,497), Syracuse (20,345) and Tennessee (20,267) also averaged over 20,000.

John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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