060926 NU MEDIA1

060926 NU MEDIA1 - SPORTS DOUG BENZ/staff photographer LEWISTON, N.Y. - Niagara University men� basketball head coach, Joe Mihalich, speaks during Niagara� media day, at the university, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2006.

Niagara University men’s basketball coach Joe Mihalich wants to talk about the upcoming season. Talking about the offseason is a different matter.

Mihalich is optimistic about the upcoming season, but it’s hard for him to avoid questions about the arrests of five of his players resulting from a fight outside a bar in the early-morning hours of Aug. 31.

“We’re just working hard, we’re just playing, we’re going through our drills, we’re letting the process take place,” Mihalich said at Niagara’s media day Tuesday. “The kids are playing basketball and working hard and looking forward to the season. We’re excited about the season.”

As for talking about the incident, Mihalich wouldn’t budge.

“They don’t want me to answer questions,” Mihalich said. “As soon as the dust settles, come find me.”

The dust may not settle before Niagara’s first day of official practice Oct. 13. Three of the players — Kamau Gordon, Lorenzo Miles and Javonte Clanton were scheduled to appear in court Oct. 10. Charron Fisher and Stanley Hodge are scheduled to appear in court Oct. 17.

Niagara University Athletics Director Ed McLaughlin said the players will be punished no matter the outcome of the legal process.

“I don’t want to speculate what the punishments should be because there are a lot of different scenarios that could be coming down,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t want to make too early of a judgment on that. We’re going to punish fairly and justly. I think the key thing for all of our student-athletes to understand moving forward is that there are consequences for all of their actions.”

The promised punishments could mean the Purple Eagles could be without some key players when they take to the court for their season opener against Binghamton at the Gallagher Center on Nov. 16.

“We’re going to wait until the process plays out, the university has a process in place,” Mihalich said. “We’ll just go from there.”

In addition to the promise of punishment from the university, Fisher is also nursing an injured hand, suffered during an offseason workout. Fisher was last season’s leading scorer before suffering a season-ending knee injury, his second such injury in as many years.

“You hope that all of the injuries are behind him,” Mihalich said. “Some people are like that.”

Bill McGrath 9/26/06 As to what the punishments could be, McLaughlin wouldn’t make any predictions.

“I think it’s a little premature to speculate since we haven’t done all of the information gathering with the rest of the university,” he said. “Once we get through the legal process, the university process should be pretty swift. I don’t want to speculate what the punishments should be because there are a lot of different scenarios that could be coming down. I don’t want to make too early of a judgment on that.”

McLaughlin conceded there could be some problems in the early part of the season.

“Going into practice there will be some uncertainty, but as a I said the other day, every team faces some degree of adversity,” he said. “This is certainly not any degree of the adversity at Duquesne right now. I am thankful each and every day that we don’t face that kind of uncertainty.”

Bill McGrath 9/26/06 McLaughlin admitted he would like to see the whole situation put behind him once and for all.

“I think it would be best for everybody in terms of within our department if we could have closure, but that’s not what the process is,” McLaughlin said. “We’re just ready to get going.”

So is Mihalich.

“We’re going to be small and fast, but deep,” Mihalich said. “After last year (when Niagara finished the season with just six healthy players), that will be a nice thing to have — depth.”

That is once all of the punishments are completed.

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