After signing one player cleared of sexual assault charges and landing a commitment from another, Will Wade addressed the issue of recruiting and signing players with criminal accusations in their past with the media on Friday.
Asked by Tiger Rag what his philosophy or policy was for vetting players with criminal accusations, but not necessarily criminal convictions in their past – a description which applies to current Tiger Kavell Bigby-Williams and 2018 commitment Emmitt Williams, both of whom have been cleared after sexual assault accusations – Wade offered the following answer:
“It’s like you said,” he said. “You look at each case individually. We don’t want to do anything that’s going to put the LSU campus at risk or students at risk. That’s not my job, to vet everything. We’ve got professionals on campus who do all that. We leave it to them. They give us an answer, one way or the other.
“That’s not for basketball coaches to get into. That’s not for athletic department staffs to get into. That’s for trained professionals on your campus to handle. That’s how we’ve gone about it here, and that’s how we’ll continue to go about it.”
Wade was later asked if he had ever dealt with a similar circumstance while recruiting a player and had to back off of the prospect.
“We’ve backed off on recruits for all sorts of reasons,” he said. “Character issues, academic issues, whatever it may be. One of my previous schools, I brought a kid on an official visit and sent him home after a night. We’ve backed off of kids for all sorts of different reasons. You want to make sure the people you bring in fit your team, fit your culture, fit what you want.”
In the wake of the Outside the Lines reporting on sexual assault cases connected to Michigan State, NBC Sports columnist Rob Dauster tied the situation in East Lansing to Wade’s recruitment of Bigby-Williams and Williams in Baton Rouge, noting that the first-year Tiger head coach is taking a risk by bringing the two players on board.
Bigby-Williams joined the program in the summer as a transfer from Oregon. He was never charged with a crime or arrested. Williams, a five-star prospect in 2018, was arrested in November on sexual battery charges, but the Orange County DA declined to file charges on Dec. 21. He committed to LSU in late January.