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USF looks into alleged NCAA rules violations

USF’s athletics department is still investigating the alleged NCAA violations raised last week in a report by AOL’s sports Web site against the USF men’s basketball team.

The report cites violations against video and conditioning assistant coach Terrelle Woody, a close friend of sophomore Augustus Gilchrist, and outlines bizarre diminished relationships in the Bulls’ backcourt during the spring and summer.

According to a police investigation from April, junior guard Dominique Jones, sophomore guard Justin Leemow and Ohio State transfer Anthony Crater were the center of an investigation – but were never charged – in a burglary where items were stolen from former player Jesus Verdejo, now graduated, and Gaby Belardo, who transferred to Canisius in the spring. Verdejo moved his belongings into Belardo’s apartment after being kicked out of another living arrangement.

According to the police report, an unknown suspect entered Belardo’s apartment on April 22 removed a TV, an XBOX 360, XBOX games, two iPod touches, MP3 speakers, a laptop, jewelry and clothing before fleeing undetected. There were no signs of a forced entry, however.

Several days prior, Belardo had a necklace and watch stolen from him, but after a team meeting called by coach Stan Heath to address the matter, the items were returned by Jones, Leemow, and Crater on April 21, according to the report. The report also says that Crater confessed to stealing the necklace, stating that he thought it belonged to Verdejo.

In both thefts, according to police investigators, Belardo reported the stolen items to Heath, but he advised Belardo “not to call law enforcement right away,” and that he’d call a team meeting to get the belongings back. Heath told police investigators there had been a lot of minor “pranks” around the team last season.

Following the second theft, which mounted to nearly $8,000 in merchandise, Belardo had USF senior guard Mike Mercer, who was suspended from the team at the time, stake out at Jones’ apartment during one of the team meetings called. Mercer told investigators he saw Jones’ girlfriend remove two large garbage bags from the apartment.

When questioned, she told police she was doing laundry and said she believed Jones had nothing to do with the theft. Police also probed into Jones’ text messages but “did not locate any incriminating messages regarding this incident.”

Belardo also gave police conflicting stories, including that he initially had an iPod stolen and that he found it in Jones’ locker, but after police interviewed Crater, who alleged that Belardo “had given the iPod to Jones with the understanding that Jones would pay the victim for the item at a later date,” Belardo agreed with Crater’s comments.

When Jones never paid him, Belardo took the iPod back from Jones’ locker, Crater told police.

“I asked Dominique about it and he tried to say it was his (iPod),” Belardo said in the report. “The next day is when someone broke into my apartment for the second time and stole all of my belongings. This is why I suspect Dominique and Anthony.”

When reached for comment Friday, Belardo and Verdejo declined to comment.

In an unrelated sequence of events, FanHouse also reported that Woody violated NCAA rules, specifically with providing improper transportation to Gilchrist.

Other violations included watching “open gyms,” and coaching and partaking in workouts with USF players, actions not allowed by someone in Woody’s non-coaching position. NCAA rules state a person in Woody’s position can only provide “reasonable local transportation” to student-athletes on an “occasional” basis, though the allegations all are minor infractions.

The report indicates Woody provided Gilchrist with more than the allowed transportation, including an alleged trip from Tampa to Maryland and to the NBA Finals in Orlando.

USF officials declined comment, releasing a statement saying: “We will carefully review the issues raised in an Internet report. If we discover any issues that warrant action, we will address those.”