Allegations haven't changed feelings

Updated: December 13, 2003, 9:10 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Former point guard Ricky Clemons said allegations he received illegal payments and academic help during his career at Missouri have not changed his feelings for coach Quin Snyder, who Clemons says is like a father to him.

"I trust him," Clemons told the Columbia Daily Tribune in Saturday's editions. "Coach, he's like my dad forever. I'm like a son to him."

Clemons, 23, was kicked off the basketball team in July after he completed a jail term arising from two misdemeanor convictions for assaulting then-girlfriend Jessica Bunge.

The NCAA has been investigating claims by Bunge that Clemons received money and clothing from the Missouri coaching staff. In the past week, tapes of Clemons' phone conversations from the Boone County Jail revealed discussions of payments to Clemons and current players Rickey Paulding and Arthur Johnson.

Paulding and Johnson have denied receiving any money. Snyder has said he cannot discuss the allegations because of the ongoing NCAA investigation.

Clemons said he and Snyder have not spoken since August, and he refused to visit with the coach while he was jailed or since he was released.

"I don't want to put him in any more jeopardy," Clemons said.

Snyder is one of the few people who has shown he cared about him off the basketball court, Clemons said. Clemons no longer keeps in touch with his mother or his father.

Clemons said he would only talk to Snyder if the coach called, and then he'd say: " 'I'm sorry that all this had to come about, that all this stuff has just gone bad, and it's just getting worse and worse every day.'

"But if anyone can get through this, it's him and me."

Clemons also said that Elson Floyd, the university president who agreed to help Clemons at Snyder's request, is not responsible for the turmoil at Missouri.

"People need to know that Mr. Floyd had nothing to do with anything that happened," Clemons said. "I talked to him 30 minutes in my life, and people think we hanging out on a regular basis."

Clemons said he's living in Columbia and hopes to graduate in December. He has asked that his probation be transferred to North Carolina, where he could live with his grandmother.

Boone County Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton approved the transfer Wednesday, but the Missouri Department of Corrections has not given final approval, corrections spokesman John Fougere said. To move, Clemons must have the permission of probation officials in both states.

If Clemons does not graduate this month, he said he might stay through next semester. After all, Clemons said, he's got nothing to hide from.

While in jail, though, Clemons said he received at least 12 hate letters.

"There's a lot of good people in this town. Unfortunately, there's a lot of biased people," Clemons said. "For people to deny it is absurd."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press