Gonzaga reinstates Heytvelt, Davis eight months after drug arrests

Updated: October 12, 2007, 9:43 PM ET
Associated Press

Gonzaga reinstated center Josh Heytvelt to the basketball team on Friday, after eight months of weekly drug tests, 300 hours of community service and a reversal of his coach's initial thoughts of never having him back.

Heytvelt, a 6-foot-11 junior and the Bulldogs' leading returning scorer with West Coast Conference MVP Derek Raivio having graduated, had been suspended for possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

He was averaging more than 15 points per game and leading Gonzaga in rebounding when he and teammate Theo Davis were arrested Feb. 9 in Cheney, Wash. Police said they spotted a bag of psilocybin mushrooms protruding from a bag in Heytvelt's vehicle during a traffic stop.

"Initially, I didn't think I had a chance to come back," the 21-year-old Heytvelt said Friday during a news conference attended by the entire team, Bulldogs coach Mark Few and athletic director Mike Roth, with the school's chief judicial officer for student affairs nearby.

"I'm blessed with the opportunity that the university and my coaches gave me to prove myself.

"I did a lot of stuff in the community that showed me a lot of ways people have to live life. And the way I was living my life was not good," said Heytvelt, who added that it will take time to regain the trust of his teammates.

Investigators said they also found a partial marijuana cigarette in the pocket of Davis, a freshman who redshirted last season.

"I'm very embarrassed by what happened," Davis said. "Fortunately, I'm at a place that gives second chances."

Gonzaga was 18-8 with Heytvelt last season and 6-3 without him, winning the WCC tournament for the eighth time in nine seasons. But the Zags lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Indiana -- their first one-and-done appearance since 2002.

"They were basically ostracized for a while -- and they needed to be," Few said of Heytvelt and Davis. "They paid a very, very large price as student athletes."

While emphasizing that university leaders, not the wildly popular basketball team, made the decision, Few said the effort the two players made to better themselves swayed him.

"To be honest, I was initially against it," Few said of reinstatement. "I think this is a real positive step for me, too.

"This reminded me what this university is all about, what the Jesuit way is all about."

Few, who is entering his 19th season at Gonzaga and ninth as head coach, said "I even sat down and prayed" over the situation that became front-page, lead-story news for months in Gonzaga-mad Spokane, Wash.

"It was a very embarrassing situation, but I think we learned a lot about ourselves. ... I came full circle, too, and have seen how these two have grown."

Friday's decision had become a foregone conclusion around the program in recent weeks, because Heytvelt and Davis exceeded the requirements of their court-supervised diversion programs which stated the charges against them would be dismissed if they performed specific actions.

Heytvelt did about 60 hours of community service beyond what was required. It included time at the local food bank and at a Ronald McDonald House for terminally ill children, which he called humbling.

He also assisted with Habitat for Humanity building projects and completed drug and alcohol education classes, said Melissa Lewis, Heytvelt's case manager with Friendship Diversion Services in Spokane.

"He's gone above and beyond," Lewis said last month.

"It's been a life lesson," Heytvelt said. "Everyone makes mistakes. It's just how you deal with it that makes you a better person."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press