Niagara players suspended following assault charges

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Niagara issued suspensions ranging from one
to eight games for six men's basketball players accused of being
involved in an assault of a university baseball player this summer.

Athletic director Ed McLaughlin announced the suspensions in a
news release issued by the university Wednesday, saying the players
are being "held accountable for their poor judgment."

The timing of the disciplinary action came as a surprise after
McLaughlin had previously said he would wait until after the
players' legal proceedings were completed. Five of the six players
are scheduled to appear in a Niagara Falls court on Monday.

McLaughlin said he couldn't wait any longer, because the team is
scheduled to open practice Friday, and its season opener is only a
month away.

Starters Charron Fisher, who will serve an eight-game
suspension, and Stanley Hodge (two games) face the most serious
charge of misdemeanor assault. They are accused of attacking
Jeffrey St. Denis, a Purple Eagles pitcher, who was pulled out of a
parked van near a Niagara Falls bar in the early morning of Aug.

St. Denis lost consciousness and was driven to a hospital, where
he was treated for bruises to the face and chest, a police report

Hodge and teammates Lorenzo Miles, Kamau Gordon and Javonte
Clanton are charged with disorderly conduct.

Gordon and Benson Egemonye, who has not been charged, face
two-game suspensions, while Miles and Clanton will serve one-game

Except for Fisher, whose suspension will begin at the start of
the season, the remainder of the suspensions will be staggered so
the team will have enough players for substitutions.

McLaughlin said he based his decision on a school investigation,
and noted the players still will appear before a university
judicial review panel, where they potentially face further
disciplinary action.

Athletic department spokeswoman Michele Schmidt said the school
was not granting interviews because of the pending court action.

"It is a privilege to be a Niagara University basketball
player," coach Joe Mihalich said in the university statement.
"Some of our players have abused that privilege and they will pay
the price."

Miles, a senior guard, said he and his teammates accepted the

"On behalf of my teammates, I apologize for embarrassing
Niagara University," Miles said. "We will accept the penalties
like men and learn from them."

McLaughlin, who took over as AD in August, is developing a code
of conduct to be signed by all university athletes. He said
athletes also will be required to take part in diversity training
and alcohol awareness programs.

"We will do away with separate teams having their own team
rules," McLaughlin said. "This whole experience has taught us
something about ourselves and how we can grow as an athletic