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Rasheed Sulaimon's mother discusses her son's dismissal from Duke

Angela Sulaimon on her son's dismissal from Duke: "I felt like Rasheed was sacrificed."

Angela Sulaimon knew that her son wasn’t going to disparage Duke or its legendary coach, Mike Krzyzewski when he spoke to the media covering his new team on Tuesday at Maryland.

“Rasheed just won’t break the code,” Angela Sulaimon said in an interview Monday with The Baltimore Sun. “Certain things he won’t say because he’s afraid of what might happen.”

Angela Sulaimon was referring to the power she believes Krzyzewski wields and the influence he has with NBA general managers and owners as coach of the U.S. Olympic team.

Krzyzewski made one brief statement after dismissing Sulaimon from the Duke team midway through last season, making the then-junior guard the first player he ever kicked out of the program in 35 years.

"Rasheed has been unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program," Krzyzewski said in a release. "It is a privilege to represent Duke University and with that privilege comes the responsibility to conduct oneself in a certain manner. After Rasheed repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations, it became apparent that it was time to dismiss him from the program."

Angela Sulaimon said that Krzyzewski’s statement infuriated her and her husband, Kenny.

“He said on TV when he let him go, ‘It’s a privilege to go to Duke.’ He needs to take that back. It’s a privilege to go to college -- period," said Angela Sulaimon, who has helped put Rasheed's four older siblings through college. "It was a privilege to have Rasheed. I promise you that not all of his players have the GPA that Rasheed had. If he had kept him on the team, he would have graduated in December.”

Sulaimon conceded during Tuesday's media day in College Park that he had hit “rock bottom” after being dismissed. Sulaimon said after signing with the Terps back in May that he did not maturely handle losing his starting job after his freshman year and eventually seeing his playing time and role further diminish as a junior.

He said that he doesn't hold any hard feelings toward those who have made nasty comments on social media, some in reaction to allegations made in a story in the school newspaper last winter that Sulaimon sexually assaulted a female student. Those allegations, which were investigated by the university and also by Maryland during its vetting process before approving his transfer, have not been substantiated. No charges were filed.

“I’m not going to hold anything against anyone, I’m just going to continue being me, that’s all I can do,” he said. “I understand that in this era right now, people are going to have their opinions. I can’t really worry about that. I have to be the best me that I can be, keep improving as a basketball player, keep improving as a man in society, just go along and roll with the punches. I understand there’s going to be some positive and some negative. I’m really to deal with it.” 

Angela Sulaimon said Monday -- in her first public comments since her son was dismissed by Krzyzewski -- that she believes the allegations of sexual assault played a part in the coach’s decision.

“He didn’t want to deal with it. He wanted to go on with the season,” Angela Sulaimon said of Krzyzewski. “But there was no record, there were no formal charges. Nobody said, ‘Yes, he did it.’ The Duke newspaper tried to call me and one of them said, ‘Why can’t we talk to you and get your side of the story? Maybe we made a mistake with Rasheed.’ But I never answered.”

Angela Sulaimon acknowledged that she might have played a part in her son’s fallout with his legendary coach.

“He’s not the kind of kid who backed down and that was a problem with Coach K,” she said. “I taught him to have a voice and to have an opinion. He has always been a very competitive kid. He wants to compete at the highest level. I wouldn’t say he’s on a mission [now]. That’s Rasheed. He never backs down. He doesn’t like to lose. Some people might take it wrong, but he just likes to compete.”

Angela Sulaimon said the fact that her son has stayed in touch with his former teammates during and after their NCAA championship run speaks to his character.

"He’s not the type of kid who’s like, ‘I’m not in their program, so forget about them,’" she said. "Friendship means a lot. He was very positive toward the guys he played with. They were like brothers. It had nothing to do with the guys. A lot of them felt like Rasheed got the raw end of the stick. I felt like Rasheed was sacrificed.”

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56

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