The monumental task of restoring BYU's basketball program was dealt a major setback Tuesday when coach Steve Cleveland announced that two key players have been suspended indefinitely from the team.
Junior Ron Selleaze, who led the Cougars in scoring this season, and sophomore Michael Garrett, who sat out this past season and was projected to be BYU's starting point guard next year, were cited earlier this month with illegal drug possession, a violation of both school and team rules."I am working with the proper authorities gathering all of the facts in order to best determine how to help these young men in the future," said Cleveland. "As part of this process, we have referred the information to the BYU Honor Code Office.
"Right now, I'm more concerned about these young men than I am with basketball," he continued. "Life is much more important than basketball, and this is a lesson in life I'm determined to get them through."
According to police reports, Selleaze and Garrett received citations for possession of marijuana March 16 at their Provo apartment, 1799 N. 950 West, No. 23, when Provo police responded to a noise complaint at 1 a.m. Two other men, Lamon Holloway of Provo and Zack Ellison of Orem, who are not BYU students, were also cited. No arrests were made.
The officers' cause for entering the apartment is unclear. Selleaze and Garrett signed documents promising to appear in court in April.
City prosecutor Steve Schreiner said an investigation is ongoing and that a decision on whether to file charges is pending. The city will either charge Selleaze and Garrett with misdemeanor drug possession or drop the case.
Cleveland learned of the alleged violations last weekend while on a recruiting trip. When he returned to Provo, he talked to the two players and decided to suspend them "indefinitely." Cleveland made it clear that as he and his staff attempt to rebuild the struggling program, standards imposed by the coaches and the university will not be compromised. "I'm not going to tolerate the violation of team rules," he said.
Selleaze and Garrett have been allowed to remain in school through the remainder of the semester, which concludes in April. During that time, the case will be reviewed by the Honor Code Office. Depending on the outcome of the school's investigation of the charges, Selleaze and Garrett could face punishment ranging from probation to expulsion.
"They are very, very disappointed," said Cleveland of the two players. "It's been a very difficult couple of days."
A 6-7 forward, Selleaze averaged 17 points a game for the Cougars after joining the team in mid-December. He was a second-team All-WAC performer and offered BYU fans hope for the future of the program. And Cougar coaches were excited about Garrett, a 6-1 prospect who was considered to be an important cog in the rebuilding process. Both Garrett and Selleaze played previously for Cleveland at Fresno City College.
"It's very unfortunate and this is another challenge to overcome," said Cleveland, who led BYU to a 9-21 record in his first season as the Cougar coach. "But we will go on."
Hours after the announcement of the suspension late Tuesday afternoon, the basketball team held its annual banquet to celebrate the 1997-98 season, which included eight more victories than the previous year, a shocking upset of nationally ranked New Mexico and an improbable berth in the WAC Tournament. Selleaze attended the affair, but none of the BYU players knew of the suspension until afterward.