Williams faces charges connected to laptop thefts

Updated: August 16, 2005, 10:31 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Connecticut junior point guard Marcus Williams is expected to return to campus Tuesday or Wednesday from the FIBA U21 World Championships in Argentina to face charges of larceny dealing with stolen laptop computers on campus.

Whether or not Williams plays another game for Connecticut won't be known until after a likely Aug. 23 court case, along with teammate A.J. Price, and a ruling from the University of Connecticut Student Affairs Committee.

"Marcus will be on campus ... to get his situation squared away and we'll go from there," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said Monday.

"There are legal matters early next week and then the university matters," Calhoun said. "Our job as adults is to educate and teach these kids and punish if we have to."

In a prepared statement issued Tuesday, the UConn athletic department said it had no comment on the charges facing the pair.

"The allegations involving Marcus Williams and A.J. Price are an ongoing legal matter and a University Student Code of Conduct situation. Therefore, the Division of Athletics is unable to make any comment regarding these proceedings," the statement said.

Williams is a projected starter, while Price sat out last season as a freshman after he suffered a blood vessel abnormality in his brain. He has yet to be medically cleared to play.

Price was arrested last Friday. He surrendered to police and charged with three larceny charges, as well as lying to police. The Associated Press reported that the university police didn't say if Price stole the computers but did try to sell them, and that two of them were found in Price's dorm room.

Price is due in court on Aug. 23. According to The AP, Price denied knowing that the laptops were in his room, but police had cell phone text messages from him that showed he had knowledge of their whereabouts. He was released on $10,000 bond. The computers were stolen from the Charter Oak Suites dorms on campus, where Price lived, between June 9-15.

"There is no guarantee that he will be [cleared]," Calhoun said of Price playing basketball early this season. "The doctors have said he would fully recover, but that there was no guarantee on time. Normally they weren't going to look at this until next February."

If the Huskies lose Price, it won't be a hit for them, since they never had him. But Williams is expected to be the starting point guard and one of the key components for a national title run. If Williams were expelled or suspended, the Huskies would be looking at newcomers Robert Garrison of Niagara Falls, N.Y. or combo guard Craig Austrie of Trinity Catholic in Stamford, Conn., at the point.

Garrison was a late pickup in the spring signing period and suddenly could be thrust into a starting role with a loaded cast around him, including potential all-American forwards junior Josh Boone and sophomore Rudy Gay and veteran senior guards Rashad Anderson and Denham Brown.

"[Garrison] is good enough to run a Big East team," Calhoun said. "I don't have any question that Craig Austrie could play point or two-guard. But to speculate on who we're going to use or not, well, I would just say we do have two other kids in the program."

Members of the Connecticut coaching staff told ESPN.com Monday that they weren't surprised that Williams' numbers were down while he was in Argentina, knowing that he was facing legal issues at home. He had 24 assists in his first four games with Team USA, only nine in his last four. He scored 17 points in the second game against Lithuania and only 16 in the final six games.

The Big East's most improved player in 2005, Williams started all 31 games last season, averaging 9.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists a game, good for third nationally. His last UConn game was one of his best, scoring 22 points and dishing out 16 assists in the second-round NCAA Tournament loss to N.C. State. Williams didn't play in the second semester of his freshman season due to academics, missing 14 games.

Connecticut officials expect this matter to be wrapped up before Labor Day, allowing the team to move forward knowing its point-guard situation. That would be just in time before Calhoun is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame with friend and rival Jim Boeheim of Syracuse Sept. 9-10.

The Huskies, even without Williams, will likely be projected as a top-10 team. But to be a national champ they'll need a superb effort from Gay, who averaged 10.5 points for the U.S. during its fifth-place finish in Argentina.

"He didn't have a great tournament, he had a good tournament," Calhoun said of his sophomore forward. "For Connecticut to get where it wants, he'll have to have a great year and score more than eight or 10 points a game. But we'll set things up for him."

But who will feed Gay the ball might not be answered until well into October if Williams' legal mess is still unsettled, or a decision is reached that could derail his season.

Calhoun wouldn't speculate on a punishment from the university but there is a range from nothing, to being removed from the dorms, to suspension to expulsion.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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