With two of his players arrested on suspicion of homicide over the weekend, Allan Hancock College basketball coach Tyson Aye remained stunned Monday at the mid-season development.
“Initial reaction — shock, surprise, sadness,” Aye said Monday. “It just wasn’t something that was expected.”
Lavell White, 22, and Ali Mohammed, 19, were booked on suspicion of homicide in Santa Barbara County Jail with bail set at $1 million. They are accused to in the fatal shooting of Terence Richardson, 23, Santa Maria on Dec. 30.
Both players have been removed from the team and their teammates remain shocked and surprised.
“I mean it still hasn’t completely set in for any of us,” Aye said. “Just utter disbelief.”
On behalf of the Bulldog Athletics family, Aye began Monday’s press conference offering “our deepest condolences to the Richardson family.” Richardson is a former student at Hancock College, officials have said.
Despite having seven guys in uniform and reeling from the recent news of the players’ arrests, the Bulldogs won against Cuesta College on Saturday.
“To see this group of young men and how they came together shortly after getting this news it remains probably one of my most proud coaching moments. … They fought with everything they had together to get a win, which they rightfully deserved.,” Aye said.
In the wake of the arrests, an outpouring of support from the Hancock, Central Coast and broader sports communities has helped.
And Aye urged people to continue to back the players with “thoughts, prayers, support — in any way possible just to let them know their community is here for them.”
The Bulldogs’ next game is at home 5 p.m. Wednesday against Ventura College.
“We can’t control anything but our attitude and our effort and that’s what we reiterated today,” Aye said, adding there might be two people in the stands or 2,000 waiting at the door. “That’s way beyond our control. That’s not what our focus is.”
The team won’t gain any new members since Aye doesn’t want to waste any redshirt players’ eligibility on a partial season.
Aye noted as the community college basketball coach and instructor, mentoring and education continues on and off the court for all students to help them become young adults.
The coach said he receives multiple contacts daily from throughout California, across the nation and even from overseas from student’s eager to join the Hancock team.
“We do actively recruit and in that process we try to do as much research as possible on everybody we didn’t actually recruit,” Aye said, adding they contact coaches, family members and others.
“In a situation like this it causes everybody to pause and pay great attention to detail,” added Athletic Director Kim Ensing, an associate dean. “That goes without saying. Our coaches do a good job when it comes to establishing a relationship with a student-athlete before they even show up here. …Our coaches and our programs have been real successful sending student-athletes from Hancock to many universities all over America.”
Hancock College has a random drug testing program, checking for use of multiple substances, Ensing added.
She said Hancock is one of very few community colleges in California to voluntarily conduct drug testing of student-athletes on a random basis.
Aye said Hancock doesn’t offer scholarships so those on the various sports teams are paying their own way.
While police said the shooting suspects were Santa Maria residents, both apparently moved here to attend Hancock.
White transferred to Hancock from Polk State College, a NJCAA Division I school in Florida where he averaged nearly 10 points and five rebounds for the Eagles. The native of Gary, Ind., had prepped at Ranier Beach High School in Seattle, according to the Western State Conference.
White had been making a reputation for himself on the court so far this season. He was named Western State Conference Male Athlete of the Week for Week No. 14 last month, with the WSC website noting, “White had a big weekend for the Bulldogs” who finished in third place at the Santa Barbara City College Tournament. White averaged 18.6 points and 7.7 rebounds a game for Hancock. In the third-place game, White had a “double-double” by making with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
In a December game as part of the 77th annual Modesto Junior College Tournament, White scored 17 points while Mohammed had 10 point in their team’s 77-65 loss to Sacramento, according to the Modesto Bee. The day before the shooting, White again had a double-double, with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Mohammed reportedly attended Dorsey High School in Los Angeles.
Hancock officials said they are committed to “high standards and dedicated to student success with mentoring programs set up to ensure the well-bring of students.”
“As we wait for more details, we are actively reviewing all policies and procedures relating to student conduct and will look for ways to enhance our support systems for all of our students to help them make choices consistent with Allan Hancock College’s high standards for ethics, responsibility and citizenship,” the college said.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.