Maryland basketball recruit Tyree Evans has asked to be released from his letter of intent, ending a campus debate over whether the talented guard should be permitted to play for the Terrapins despite a string of criminal offenses.
Maryland released a statement yesterday saying that it had accepted the 23-year-old's decision to be released from his commitment. The withdrawal comes less than three weeks after Evans told The Sun, "I'm proud to be a Terp," and less than six weeks after he was offered a scholarship by the school's basketball staff. Athletic director Debbie Yow said she didn't know at the time that Maryland was recruiting Evans or much, if anything, about his criminal past.
Evans' abrupt decision came after media reports about his past. In 2005, he was charged with felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. He ended up pleading to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to 12 months in jail with all but one month suspended. In 2006, he pleaded guilty to a reduced assault-related misdemeanor after being accused with others of statutory rape of a 15-year-old female classmate at a Massachusetts prep school in 2004. There was also a 2006 trespassing arrest in his hometown of Richmond, Va.
The previous media reports didn't mention a fourth case - marijuana possession and handgun charges lodged in Cecil County Circuit Court in November 2005. He received probation on the drug charge, and the handgun count wasn't pursued by prosecutors, county officials said. "That was a positive result for him because not everyone gets probation," said Lawrence Derx, his attorney.
Asked whether all the charges were too much for Maryland, athletic officials insisted it was Evans' decision - not the university's - for him to withdraw.
Evans, who has bounced from high school to prep school to two junior colleges, was offered a scholarship in April but hadn't been accepted by the admissions office. His withdrawal came while the university was studying his credentials and history.
Maryland coach Gary Williams had initially emerged as Evans' champion. The coach had said his instinct and years of experience told him Evans could succeed.
Williams said recently that Evans had been excited to come to the school - a sentiment the recruit echoed this month when he talked about his plans to room with guard Greivis Vasquez and to play big road games in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
But Williams said yesterday in a prepared statement that "after much thought, Tyree felt Maryland was not the best fit for him at this time and I support his decision. We wish him well in the future."
Evans did not respond to cell-phone messages yesterday. On Thursday night - when senior associate AD Kathleen Worthington said he made his decision - Evans said: "I'm not talking anymore. You'll just find out when everything happens."
Bobby Steinburg, who coached Evans last season at Motlow State Community College in Tennessee, said his former player wasn't coerced by Williams or anyone on his staff. Williams did not immediately respond to a message left on his phone.
"They didn't tell Tyree or instruct Tyree to do this at all," Steinburg said.
Steinburg, who will become an assistant coach at Division I Kent on June 1, said the buildup of negative publicity made Evans decide that College Park was not the best place for him.
"Hearing about all that stuff and people started telling him, it was just constantly a struggle. It seemed like every day it was something new," Steinburg said. "He and I just talked about it two days ago and said, 'Let's go ahead and opt out.'
"It's not like he's going to have trouble finding another place."
Evans had chosen to play for Maryland over Arizona, Florida State and Kansas State. He averaged 21.2 points in one season at Motlow State.
Steinburg said that once the stories started coming out about Evans' past, Evans had doubts.
"He just felt it was becoming a distraction," Steinburg said. "Tyree, believe it or not, is not someone who wants the spotlight all the time. He doesn't want to be a distraction, and he felt that was happening."
He said he didn't know about where the admissions process stood but added, "I thought they were going to admit him."
All Maryland applicants, including nonathletes, must be reviewed by the Office of Student Discipline if they have been found guilty of any violation of the law. Those proceedings are private.
Yow told The Sun several weeks ago that she didn't know Evans' criminal history until he had been offered a scholarship by Williams' staff.
Sun reporter Don Markus contributed to this article.