ATHENS - Donte Williams has been cleared of a marijuana possession charge, and is loudly professing his innocence.
Two months ago, the junior forward for the Georgia men's basketball team was arrested in Atlanta on the misdemeanor charge. Since then, however, the charge has been dropped, according to Williams.
Williams began a media session on Monday, which was set up to preview the team's upcoming trip to Italy, by making a statement:
“I know everybody is aware of the incident that took place May 25th. First I want to apologize for bringing negative attention to the university, towards my team, towards my family. But I wanted the truth to be known. I don’t do drugs. Soon after the incident, I took a drug test, passed my drug test. I came up here and took a drug test, passed my drug test. I took another drug test in court, and passed that drug test. The case has been dismissed. Since then, I have moved on. I’m focused on playing basketball and focused on school and getting ready for the season.”
So does this automatically mean that Williams will not be suspended? Head coach Mark Fox would not say either way, saying it would be reviewed "by everybody." UGA's student-athlete handbook mandates a short suspension for an arrest (10 percent of a season, or three games in the case of basketball.)
“Putting himself in wrong place, wrong time, wrong people, I’ll deal with all that," Fox said. "But I won’t deal with any of that until later. Right now we’re going to focus on him taking full advantage of this trip."
The importance of any suspension would likely be dictated by how Georgia's schedule looks. It has yet to be announced. What is known is the Bulldogs are going to play Indiana, perhaps the preseason national No. 1 team, the week of Thanksgiving. By then, it is likely Georgia will have played three games against weaker foes.
"The important thing was for him, really, when he’s trying to get a job and he’s 30 years old and people Google his name, I want the truth to be known," Fox said. "I’m not mad at anyone for reporting what they had to report. I mean, that’s your jobs. But the accuracy of what someone tells you may not be right. I think it’s important that be stated.”
Williams started every game for Georgia last season, averaging 7.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. He is once again expected to be among the team's key post players this season.
“In this country, you’re innocent until you’re proven guilty. But oftentimes as an athlete, you’re guilty until you prove your innocence. I think Donte’ has learned a valuable lesson in who his friends should be. He was able to share with you some things that I would not be able to, but I think he’s learned a great lesson, and I’m happy he’s been able to show his innocence.”
Other basketball notes:
- Junior forward Marcus Thornton will accompany the team to Italy but is not scheduled to play. Thornton is still recovering from surgery to repair a partial tear in his patella tendon.
“That’s one of the things people never really realize is that ever since I’ve been here there hasn’t really been a time where I was 100 percent or really even close in terms of last year," Thornton said. "So it would be nice to finally be able to start a season and hopefully play all the way through a season healthy.”
- Georgia will play games against pro teams from Italy and Lithuania on the trip. There will of course be time for more fun, and not just games.
“We’ll see the leaning tower of Pisa. We’ll be able to visit Venice the canals in Venice. We’ll go to the Vatican," Fox said. "I don’t think we’ll get to see the Pope, but it’ll be a great trip. We’ll see the statue of David in Florence. It’s not like we’re going to do a lot of things that a typical teenager would choose to do, but I think it will be a real fun experience for them.”
- Fox will use the trip to experiment with some lineup combinations. That will include using leading scorer Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, normally a shooting guard, at point guard. That doesn't mean Caldwell-Pope, the team's top player, will get any time there this season, but Fox said it would aid his development.
Full disclosure: These quotes were provided by colleague Gentry Estes of Dawgs247.com, as I was unable to attend today's media briefing.