Officials say they tried to get ODU star to comply
Officials tried for six months to persuade Old Dominion University basketball star Kent Bazemore to comply with a Virginia Beach court-ordered alcohol-safety program before reporting him to the court, which ordered his arrest last month.
Virginia Beach police then sent two letters to Bazemore’s Norfolk apartment, asking him to turn himself in, said Officer Grazia Moyers, a police spokeswoman. The letters went unanswered, she said Thursday.
That’s when police started receiving Crime Solvers tips saying Bazemore would be playing against Mercer University at ODU’s Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk on Wednesday night, Moyers said. Two Virginia Beach detectives went to ODU, consulted with campus police and arrested Bazemore minutes before the tipoff of a game that ODU ultimately lost.
Court records and police said Bazemore, 22, was arrested July 23 and charged with driving under the influence on Shore Drive. He pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor Aug. 30, received a suspended four-month jail sentence and was ordered into the alcohol program. He never showed, according to police and the records.
Bazemore, a senior guard who is arguably the highest-profile athlete at ODU, apparently kept his initial arrest a secret until Wednesday.
School officials, including coach Blaine Taylor and athletic director Wood Selig, said they did not learn of last summer’s arrest until after the game.
“If we had had awareness at any point, we obviously would have had disciplinary action,” Taylor said at a Thursday afternoon news conference.
Selig said there is no hard-and-fast policy regarding athlete arrests, and discipline is determined case by case.
Asked whether he was disappointed or embarrassed that Bazemore did not inform him of the arrest, Taylor said, “I’m one of about 2 million people in Hampton Roads that didn’t know.”
Bazemore’s lawyer, Peter G. Decker III, said Bazemore contacted him after his arrest. He said he did not remember whether he advised Bazemore to tell Taylor.
“We try to keep our clients under the radar with stuff like this,” Decker said. “I don’t know who else knew about it. Kent and I were the only ones who appeared last summer.”
Decker said he is not sure why Bazemore failed to complete the terms of his sentence, which required him to attend Chesapeake Bay Alcohol Safety Action Program classes.
“All I can imagine is that he had a lot going on, including the CAA tournament, during this time period,” Decker said. “He’s a college kid. He misplaced his priorities. He didn’t follow through, and he needs to learn from that.
“If I had known he missed a court date, we would have had him there.”
Decker questioned the timing of the arrest: “Nobody can tell me there wasn’t a better way of doing that.”
He also stressed he does not officially represent ODU, although he has represented players on traffic matters.
“Nobody pays me; I do it for free,” Decker said. “I’m more of a fan and a friend. I’m not doing it for anything in return.”
Selig, however, said later Thursday he spoke with Decker and Bazemore to “ensure there was compensation” for the lawyer’s work.
“Otherwise, it’s an NCAA violation,” Selig said.
Attempts to reach Baze-more on Thursday were unsuccessful. His mother, Glynis Bazemore, declined comment, other than to say she was glad her son wasn’t physically hurt.
Bazemore will graduate in May with degrees in criminal justice and human services. Taylor said he has been “an exemplary student and tremendous ambassador” for ODU.
“What an unfortunate time, with all the positive things. You feel for the young man,” he said.
Twice chosen as the Colonial Athletic Association’s defensive player of the year, Bazemore set an ODU record for games played, with 140.
Prior to his 141st, police allowed him to go to the locker room to change out of his uniform before taking him to jail.
Without Bazemore, ODU lost Wednesday night to Mercer, 79-73, in the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com men’s basketball tournament.
While the timing of the arrest might have been less than ideal for Bazemore and his team, Moyers said police treated him like any other wanted person and were not trying to make an example of him. Officers from the Warrant/Fugitive Unit didn’t realize he played for ODU until they received the anonymous tips, she said.
“We weren’t just sitting on it, waiting for him to show up for a game,” Moyers said, noting callers criticized the department Thursday. “If you’re wanted, you’re wanted. And in this case, he was given plenty of opportunities to comply or turn himself in.”
The unit often arrests wanted people at work, she added. “It’s not like, ‘OK, we’re going to let you finish your shift.’ “
Bazemore registered a 0.13 blood alcohol content after his arrest, according to court documents; the legal limit for driving is 0.08. Typically, defendants are supposed to report to the alcohol program the day they’re sentenced – there’s an ASAP office in the Virginia Beach courthouse – but they’re given two weeks, said Officer Jimmy Barnes, another Beach police spokesman.
When Bazemore didn’t show up, ASAP officials sent him a letter in September giving him a month to comply, Moyers said. Five months later, they reported his absence to the court, which issued the arrest warrant.
A magistrate released Baze-more on bond Wednesday night. Related paperwork stated Bazemore said he “never knew he had to participate in ASAP,” which often includes a 10-week class and drug and alcohol screenings.
He’s due back in court April 18.
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