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Heath dismisses Mercer from team

Junior guard Mike Mercer has been dismissed from the South Florida basketball team, coach Stan Heath announced Monday.

Mercer and teammate Anthony Crater were arrested late Friday night on misdemeanor charges of possession of marijuana. Heath said he didn’t make a final decision on their future until Monday.

“I didn’t want to make any emotional decisions,” Heath said. “In the first 24 hours, you have to be careful with that, but my thoughts really never wavered.”

Heath said Mercer will remain on scholarship through the semester and could graduate in the summer.

“We definitely have his academic interest in mind,” he said. “The unfortunate part is he was doing exceptionally well in school.”

Mercer was arrested in September on a misdemeanor charge of public consumption of alcohol and was dismissed from the University of Georgia for being a “disruption to the team”  last year.

Heath said he spoke with Mercer after the decision Monday.

“He’s disappointed. He’s pretty devastated,” Heath said. “He just feels like he’s snakebit in some ways. Unfortunately, he’s got to make better decisions.”

Crater, who transferred from Ohio State earlier this month, is on a “probationary status,” Heath said.

“His life’s not going to be very exciting for a while here,” he said.

Both players would not have made any impact on the court this season, however. Mercer suffered a season-ending ACL injury after starting four games earlier in the year. Crater won’t be allowed to play until next winter because of the NCAA transfer policy.

“I think any athlete (who is) a part of our basketball program and this University — and across the country, for that matter — understands it’s a privilege to play sports at any level, whether it’s Division III or Division I,” Heath said. “You can’t just think about yourself. You’re representing more than just yourself.”

Heath said he’s not concerned with the effect this might have on the team. The Bulls also lost senior B.J. Ajayi to a season-ending knee injury Thursday.

Freshman Augustus Gilchrist, who was named Big East rookie of the week Monday, said the team is trying to stay focused on basketball in preparation for Wednesday’s game against No. 7 Louisville.

“We are just trying to focus on practice and the next game,” Gilchrist said. “We try not to get caught up with things that aren’t in our control.”

Gilchrist averaged 17 points and nine rebounds in two games this week.

“I think through this adversity, the team will get stronger,” he said.