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Team needs a ‘change in leadership’

If I had to pick one word to use to most strongly illustrate the three years I spent as a student at Longwood, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose “pride.”

Due to the off-court actions of the men’s basketball team over the last two-plus years, including signs that the players and their head coach do not share that same level of respect, those feelings of pride have begun to fade.

Let’s recap, as briefly as possible.

In June 2014, then-freshman Victor Dorsey and then-sophomore Charlie Lockwood crashed a stolen, University-owned golf cart into the Greenwood Library, causing almost $10,000 worth of damages.

In August 2014, then-junior Shaquille Johnson was arrested on a felony charge of malicious wounding after allegedly punching a Hampden-Sydney College student.

The charge was dropped later in the fall after the alleged victim did not appear in court.

In February 2015, then-junior Jason Pimentel was found guilty in Prince Edward County District Court of a November 2014 sexual battery, a verdict that was overturned in the fall of 2015 by a circuit court jury.

Pimentel returned to action that season, after missing 25 games in a suspension that head coach Jayson Gee called “appropriate” in a university release announcing Pimentel’s reinstatement.

Five days after the circuit court’s decision, both Pimentel and Johnson were charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Johnson’s charge was amended in December of last year to entering property with intent to damage, a Class 1 misdemeanor.

An alleged run-in between a group of Longwood basketball players and Hampden-Sydney students on Dec. 4 escalated to the point that the fathers of the H-SC students involved filed charges against the players. Prince Edward County Commonwealth’s Attorney Megan Clark declined to prosecute the case. In a letter sent to high-level Longwood officials, Clark “(did) not condone the behaviors of any parties involved in the altercation,” but added that differing accounts of what exactly occurred led her to believe that “we would not be able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Certainly Gee cannot control the every action of every player 24 hours a day. But these problems beg the question — is any progress on the court worth the repeated embarrassment that the players are responsible for?

Gee’s winning percentage in his time in Farmville is .304, marginally better than that of his predecessor, Mike Gillian (.303). Taking out games against teams in Division II or lower, in which Gee’s teams are 11-0, that winning percentage drops to a measly .228.

Longwood Athletic Director Troy Austin’s best move in March would be to make a change in leadership in Gee’s position.

Eric Hobeck served as sports editor and men’s basketball beat writer at The Rotunda from 2012-14. His email address is Hobeckeric@gmail.com.