Duke men's basketball recruit Shelden Williams declared his innocence Sunday night in anticipation of finding out Monday whether he and four Oklahoma high school teammates would be charged in the case of an alleged rape.
Williams called reports that he and his teammates had sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman in a Columbus, Ohio, hotel room "false accusations." He said he would be told Monday whether charges would be filed in the ongoing investigation.
The victim said three players raped her while two others watched at the Columbus Hyatt Regency at about 2 a.m. Jan. 20, police spokesperson Sherry Mercurio told The Columbus Dispatch. The victim was treated at a local hospital.
"We were in our room getting ready to go to bed, and someone came in, and things got out of hand, and then Coach came in and broke it up," Williams said in a telephone interview.
He declined to elaborate, but said he still hopes to attend Duke and has been in contact with head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"I talked to Coach K. He told me to keep my head up, and he's praying for me," Williams said.
Williams said he and his teammates, who were in Columbus for a basketball tournament, have been suspended from school and kicked off the team, but that further actions are on hold until they hear about possible charges Monday.
"We didn't have enough evidence to charge them," Mercurio said in Saturday's edition of the Dispatch.
Williams signed a letter of intent with the Duke men's basketball team last fall in anticipation of gaining acceptance. Last week, admissions officials clarified their policies for applicants who have faced disciplinary action.
Although he would not discuss the admission status of any applicant in particular, Christoph Guttentag, director of undergraduate admissions, said Friday that any allegations of illegal conduct are taken seriously but that they are weighed with other factors. Past disciplinary action has led to the denial of admission to otherwise qualified students, he said, but not always.
"I don't like hypotheticals, because then you get to the question of someone who also has straight As and great boards," Guttentag said. "If any applicant were subject to legal action, it's something that we would take into account. But we make our decisions based on the information we have, the context as best as we can understand it, and ultimately what's in the best interests of the University."
The scholarship of any athletic recruit is always dependent on the decision of the admissions office, said Christopher Kennedy, associate director of athletics.
"The policy is applied to everyone, whether they're a basketball recruit or an A.B. Duke scholar," Kennedy said.
Applicants are required to disclose any disciplinary action to the admissions office. Cases where conduct becomes an important issue with an applicant arise every year or two, Guttentag said, but have not come up recently with any scholarship athletes. Such applicants are attracting more attention, he added, than they have in the past.
"The recruiting process for college athletes, in all sports, has become much more high profile than it was even five years ago, and I would trace that directly to the web," Guttentag said. "The web has dramatically increased the visibility of the athletic recruitment process."