Prep star may head to Mesa

The Associated Press

MESA, Ariz. A New York prep star who pleaded guilty to sexual assault is free to enroll at Mesa Community College but runs the risk of not being allowed to play basketball, according to school officials.

Richie Parker met for about an hour Saturday with MCC Athletic Director Allen Benedict, who said a campus committee will determine when and if the 6-foot-5 guard-forward will be allowed to join the Thunderbirds' team.

Parker did not register Saturday, the final day of open enrollment. Late registration runs through Friday, however.

The 18-year-old Parker declined all interview requests and said he will discuss his options with his New York attorney before making a decision.

''The ball's in Richie's hands,'' Benedict said. ''We promised him nothing other than he can be a student.''

Parker, one of the nation's top 30 recruits, has been rejected by at least three universities after he pleaded guilty in January to assaulting a Manhattan Center High classmate in January 1994.

Parker and a classmate lured a freshman girl into a basement stairwell at the school and forced her to perform oral sex on them.

He received five years probation in a plea bargain. Parker apologized to the girl in mid-June and and as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed against Parker by the victim, the girl will receive a portion of Parker's income if he plays in the NBA.

Parker played in two New York summer leagues after graduating from high school in June and has participated in several Basketball Congress International tournaments that were partly played at Mesa Community, located near Phoenix.

Parker had a scholarship rescinded by Seton Hall after his guilty plea to sexual abuse. The University of Utah and George Washington University later backed off plans to recruit Parker.

In previous cases, word of Parker's recruiting prompted an outpouring of criticism from the media, alumni and students that ended his hopes of a scholarship at a Division I school.

MCC football coach David Rice said it would be a ''lose-lose situation'' if Parker plays basketball at the school this season.

''When you're saying you can participate, you're sending the message: I want to win,'" Rice said. "That's the wrong message."

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