Police allege Smith violated probation

 

 

By Meghan Montemurro

After losing Shaun Pruitt and Brian Randle to graduation and following an overall poor season, Illinois fans, coaches and teammates set high expectations for junior redshirt guard Jamar Smith. But those expectations are in serious jeopardy after Smith turned himself in to authorities Tuesday after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

After losing Shaun Pruitt and Brian Randle to graduation and following an overall poor season, Illinois fans, coaches and teammates set high expectations for junior redshirt guard Jamar Smith. But those expectations are in serious jeopardy after Smith turned himself in to authorities Tuesday after a warrant was issued for his arrest. The guard was allegedly in violation of his probation last weekend after drinking alcohol. The Peoria, Ill., native posted the $2,500 bond and will appear in court Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

According to a news release from the city of Champaign, police officers responded to a call from the FuBar Lounge, 306 1/2 E. Green St., at approximately 2:30 a.m. for a report of criminal damage. Officers then responded to a verbal altercation that was occurring at the intersection of Fourth and Green streets where Smith was located within a crowd of people.

When the officers arrived, they ordered the group, which included Smith, to clear the area in an attempt to prevent any further altercations. Smith, along with other males, left but allegedly continued to return to the area several times. Police noticed a strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from Smith who was warned by the police officer a third time. The officer recalled Smith’s probation which ordered him to refrain from the use of alcohol.

Efren McKissick worked the front door at FuBar on the Thursday night of the incident and said Smith was not involved with the incident at FuBar and he was not in the bar that night. However, Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said Smith admitted he had been drinking when police asked. Smith is not allowed to drink under the terms of his probation despite being of legal age. Smith was not tested for alcohol in his bloodstream since he was not arrested, Rietz said. According to Rietz, it does not have to be proved beyond a doubt by prosecutors that Smith was drinking in order for a judge to revoke his probation, rather that he was “more likely than not” drinking.

“They did not arrest him based on anything that happened that night,” Rietz said. “But they were aware he was on probation and that he was not supposed to be drinking.”

Due to the contact, a report was written and forwarded to the Champaign County Probation Department and the State’s Attorney’s Office for review of a probable probation violation. If his probation is revoked, Smith could face anything from more stringent probation to up to 14 years in prison.

Coach Bruce Weber, who was out recruiting when the incident occurred, was disappointed with his guard.

“I recently learned about charges brought against Jamar and am working with our athletic department to understand the full details of the matter,” Weber said in a statement. “As his coach and someone who cares very much about him, I am disappointed that he would put himself into a compromising position, especially after the commitment he’s shown over the last year is his effort to return to our program. We will wait to learn all the facts before commenting any further.”

The 21-year-old Smith is serving two years of probation after pleading guilty last year to felony driving under the influence causing great bodily harm. Smith, who redshirted last season after his guilty plea, served two weeks in jail after driving a car into a tree on Feb. 12, 2007, injuring former teammate Brian Carlwell.

Carwell recently transferred to San Diego State and joined the basketball program.

Athletic Director Ron Guenther released a brief statement on the situation Tuesday.

“We are aware of the situation regarding Jamar Smith and the Champaign Police Department,” Guenther said. “While we continue to gather information, we have been in touch with Jamar and his family. We are taking this situation very seriously. Once we have gathered all of the pertinent information, we will be able to provide additional comment.”

Smith, who has been kept off limits to the media by Weber, led the Big Ten in 3-point percentage at 48.2 percent as a freshman and converted 66 of 137 attempts from behind the arc, averaging 8.0 points per game. A sophomore slump held Smith to a 31.7 3-point shooting percentage. Smith appeared in 21 games and averaged 8.1 points per game before sitting out the remainder of the season following the car accident.

Smith had been heralded during the off season for his shooting and scoring ability, something the Illini offense sorely lacked from its guard play last season en route to a school-worst 16-19 record.

“I think (Jamar) is probably going to be one of the top-five players in the country, just off his skills alone,” sophomore Alex Legion said July 16. “He’s really been working hard.”

Smith had been viewed as a key component in the Illini’s quest to return to national prominence — or at least qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.

“He’s been getting bigger, stronger, jumping higher and shooting it better,” former Illini and current Parkland College head coach Sergio McClain said on July 16. “I don’t want to make the expectations so high, but I feel he’s probably one of the best players in college basketball right now without even stepping on the court. I feel like if he just goes in and has a decent year he could probably be a lottery pick, in my opinion.”

That seems unlikely now.

Staff Writer Jeremy Werner and The Associated Press contributed to this report