Fallout, in the form of reactions from current players, future Bulldogs and even a sporting goods sales clerk, continued to drift down on the Gonzaga University men’s basketball program after Saturday’s suspension of two players arrested on drug possession charges.
And while starting sophomore forward Josh Heytvelt and freshman forward Theo Davis awaited arraignment out of the public eye after their release from jail Saturday afternoon, their teammates prepared for tonight’s showdown against West Coast Conference co-leader Santa Clara.
The Zags, who tip it off against the Broncos at 9 in the McCarthey Athletic Center, can gain sole possession of the WCC lead with a victory, which makes the timing of Heytvelt’s suspension, in particular, so potentially devastating to GU’s regular-season title hopes.
It’s time, senior forward Sean Mallon suggested after Saturday’s 60-49 win over Saint Mary’s, to move on and let the legal problems surrounding Heytvelt, the Zags’ top rebounder and second-leading scorer, and Davis, a freshman forward who is redshirting, sort themselves out.
“I think we were all pretty shocked when we first heard about it,” Mallon said. “But after that, it was just a matter of hoping for the best for them.
“We haven’t talked about it much, and we’re not going to talk about it much from here on out. We have what we have right now, so let’s just go from here. We’re playing Santa Clara, and we’re playing for a league championship. We’ve got to put all the distractions aside and just focus on that.”
Sophomore forward Micah Downs said he spent most of Saturday in a daze.
“It just kind of felt like time had kind of stopped,” he explained. “It’s been different, but we’ve definitely come closer together as a team.”
Neither Heytvelt nor Davis, who, according to Cheney police, were found to have a small amount of marijuana and some hallucinogenic mushrooms in their car when they were pulled over for a defective taillight shortly before midnight Friday, could be reached for comment Sunday.
Heytvelt’s mother, Michelle, at her home in Clarkston, said, “We really can’t say anything at this point. I’m sorry.”
Bulldogs coach Mark Few admitted after Saturday’s game the decision to suspend Heytvelt and Davis made for a long day for him and his players, saying it was “as bad as it’s ever been.”
“I’ve never had to deal with this in all my years here,” added Few, who spent 10 seasons as a GU assistant before taking over as head coach eight years ago. “I haven’t been able to sleep or eat. It’s so emotional. You’re so disappointed, so mad … you’ve got to take time to think it out, let some things prevail and see what’s best for the university, the program and the kids.”
When asked what happens next, Few said, “I don’t know what tomorrow, next week or anything is going to bring. I don’t think anybody does at this point.”
Because of the high profile the GU basketball program has built in making eight consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, news of the arrests and suspensions was far-reaching.
Former UCLA player Darren Daye, father of incoming Bulldogs recruit Austin Daye, heard the news Saturday morning, but insisted it did nothing to sway his opinion of Gonzaga.
“As a university and coaching staff, you can’t police players 24/7,” said Daye, who played a major role in helping his 6-foot-10 son select a college. “I can understand how it happened, and I know it reflects badly on the university, which is unfortunate because they have such a great program.
“But it could happen anywhere, and it has happened anywhere. It’s a just a sad thing that kids have to learn from.”
When asked if the drug charges made him second guess his decision to send his son to GU, Daye joked, “Not at all – unless Mark Few is doing it.”
Over in Kalispell, Mont., Brock Osweiler, a Flathead High School sophomore who has orally committed to play at Gonzaga, called news of the arrests “surprising.”
“You really don’t think of Gonzaga in any way like that,” he added. “They’re a really great family university, really close and stuff. Of course, I was a little surprised, but I still think it’s something Coach Few will handle really well and take the right steps in figuring out how to make the right decision.
“It’s not something you want in your program, but you know it’s everywhere. It’s not going to affect me or what I think of Gonzaga. I still love Josh Heytvelt and Theo Davis as players.”
In a related issue, a clerk at a sporting goods store in the Spokane Valley said jerseys with Heytvelt’s name were drawing additional interest Sunday but no spike in sales.
“Everybody’s looking at (the jerseys) and trying to make jokes about it,” the clerk at Just Sports explained. “But that’s all I’ve heard.”