llen Iverson, nationally recognized for his basketball skills and legal troubles, plans to enroll at Georgetown University in August, his lawyers and the school said Thursday.
Iverson, the former Bethel High School All-American, signed on April 19 a national letter of intent to accept an athletic scholarship to the prestigious Jesuit school in Washington D.C. The scholarship, Iverson's athletic eligibility, and perhaps his admission to Georgetown, hinge on Iverson meeting National Collegiate Athletic Association academic standards.
Incoming freshmen who do not attain the guidelines are ineligible to compete or practice with their teams, according to NCAA rules. Any financial aid they receive can not be based on athletic ability.
Georgetown has never accepted an athlete who failed to meet the NCAA standards, basketball Coach John Thompson said. He said if Iverson falls short of the guidelines, he will be evaluated by the school's admissions office.
Iverson is pursuing his high school diploma at Richard Milburn High, an alternative school for troubled students that operates in Hampton, York and James City counties and in 10 states. He is scheduled to complete his diploma requirements this summer, said Larry Woodward, one of his lawyers.
Woodward would not say whether Iverson is on track to meet the NCAA standards - a 2.0 grade-point average in 11 core courses and a minimum standardized test score, 700 on the Scholastic Assessment Test, or 17 on the American College Test.
Iverson enrolled at Richard Milburn after his December release from Newport News City Farm. He was sentenced in September to five years in jail for his role in a brawl at a Hampton bowling center. The case prompted national media attention, and then-Gov. Doug Wilder, citing ``sufficient doubt'' as to Iverson's guilt, granted him clemency in December.
Iverson's clemency, which prohibited him from playing basketball, expires Aug. 23, at which time he will be on parole. The appeal of his conviction is scheduled to be heard Monday in Richmond by the Virginia Court of Appeals.
``I am not at all interested in judging what has happened or what he has done,'' Thompson said. ``I am not privy to enough information to do that. I'm more interested in judging what he's committed to. ... The proof is what you do in the long-run. I think he is a bright person without a doubt. He has the ability to read and comprehend and write.''
Thompson said he never recruited Iverson. He said Iverson's mother, Ann, traveled to Georgetown in early December and asked him to help her son. After speaking to several people about Iverson, Thompson said he decided to help.
Thompson conceded he also was helping himself.
``I would be hypocritical,'' Thompson said, ``if I didn't acknowledge the fact that this is someone who is an exceptional basketball player, and I'm a basketball coach. ... It's quite obvious Allen is a talented person I'd be interested in, but not at all costs.''
Iverson, a 6-foot guard, averaged 31.6 points per game in leading Bethel High to the 1993 Group AAA state championship. He was named first-team All-America by Parade Magazine.
``His mother was very candid and very honest.'' Thompson said. ``She had a grave concern for his well-being, a concern that the aftermath of all that's come to pass would be that he was dumped by the roadside.''
Thompson said he telephoned Iverson once but purposely did not meet him until after the letter of intent was signed. He said the last thing Iverson needed was to be coddled and recruited by a basketball coach.
``I am grateful to my mother for contacting Coach Thompson on my behalf,'' Iverson said in a statement released by Georgetown. ``She has been my biggest supporter during my recent difficulties and saw Georgetown, under Coach Thompson, as the best place for me to pursue my education.
``I am happy that Coach Thompson and Georgetown have taken this interest in me. I will do my best to take advantage of this chance to continue my education.''
Thompson has coached Georgetown to a 503-190 record, three Final Fours and one national championship in 22 seasons. He is an outspoken critic of NCAA academic standards, which he believes discriminate against minority athletes.
Thompson said he observed Iverson's schooling at Richard Milburn and called it ``better than 90 percent of the school systems I have seen in urban settings.''
``The university has been true to its educational mission by considering this young man in spite of his recent troubles,'' Thompson said. ``It is now Allen's responsibility to make the most of this opportunity.''