Prep star allowed to enroll at Mesa

The Associated Press

MESA, Ariz. A New York high school basketball standout who has been rejected by college teams because of a sexual abuse conviction may spend a year in a junior college here in an attempt to improve his image.

Richie Parker was to meet Wednesday with Gordon Benson, dean of enrollment services at Mesa Community College, with that possibility on the agenda.

The school said Monday that Parker, a 6-foot-5 guard from New York considered one of nation's top recruits, would be allowed to enroll but not to play basketball.

Parker, who arrived last Friday and met with a school official the next day, has filed an enrollment application that has been accepted but hasn't registered for classes. Friday is the deadline.

The 18-year-old was on campus on Tuesday but has refused to talk with reporters.

Parker pleaded guilty in January to forcing a 14-year-old girl into oral sex at Manhattan Center High School. He was placed on five years' probation, has apologized and has pledged part of his NBA income will go to her if he makes it into the pro league.

Seton Hall withdrew its scholarship offer after the guilty plea, and Utah and George Washington also backed away.

The apparent idea now is for him to spend a year here, stay out of trouble and hope that will give him a basketball future with a four-year school. He still would have four years of playing eligibility.

''This makes it a lot more palatable for him,' said David Irwin, a spokesman for the junior college. ''At the end of the year, he was planning to transfer anyway. We had no delusions that he would stay here for two years.''

Parker's attorney, Michael Miller of New York, said that may be the best plan for the youth.

''As disappointed as he is with the nature of the initial reception (at the Mesa school), I think he feels he's in a good, positive environment, one he wants to remain in for a year,'' Miller told the Republic.

Irwin said that could work.

''Right now, nobody wants to touch him ..., but a year from now, it will be a lot easier decision,'' Irwin said. ''If he can stay out of trouble, he's got a track record they can look at. A year from now, if he doesn't get in trouble, they can say, 'Maybe it was a youthful mistake.'''

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