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Miami’s handling of Dewan Huell troubling but layered

Christopher Stock / 247Sports
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Speaking in absolutes while discussing a complex issue is never a solid idea. That reminder frames this discussion of a situation involving the Miami Hurricanes, Jim Larranaga, and top recruit Dewan Huell.

We don’t have all the facts, and the ones we do are still up for debate. It’s unwise to start hammering home points that lack any nuance or measured tones.

Yet, it can still appear troubling — at least on the surface — that the university is handling this situation with kid gloves.

Huell has been charged with misdemeanor battery. That is only a charge at this point, which means he is still very much innocent until proven guilty. On the other hand, police say he attacked someone who was in his ex-girlfriend’s dorm room. While that doesn’t mean we should rush to judge the player, it should lead those in charge with overseeing him to be careful in what they do, or don’t do, regarding his punishment.

Miami, for what it is worth, has chosen not to punish the freshman.

“I feel like it’s an internal matter,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said to the Miami Herald. “Dewan is a great kid. I’ve gotten to know him better and better since he arrived on campus in June. He knows he made a mistake, and we will handle it internally.”

The above statement is almost laughable when adding context to the situation. The cliched line “how well do we really know anyone” is unserious. Equally lacking in credibility is the head coach’s claim that he’s gotten to know a prospect incredibly well over just four months.

Huell was a McDonald’s All-American last season. He is ranked the 28th-best player in the 2016 recruiting class. He averaged 16.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game as a senior. Essentially, he will be granted the benefit of the doubt by the school because he is assumed to be very good at basketball.

Let’s not make this too complicated. Less than a week prior to the coach’s statement about the player not being suspended, the university was singing a slightly more politically correct tune.

“I am aware of the reported incident involving Dewan Huell last night (September 19), and we are still gathering information,” said athletic director Blake James. “I have very high expectations for all of our student-athletes, as I know Coach Larranaga does for his team, and any misconduct will be addressed.”

See the word “any” in there? There was misconduct, but how has it been addressed? By saying the player will not be suspended and that this is an internal matter.

March 19, 2016: Head Coach Jim Larranaga of the Miami Hurricanes during the Miami Hurricanes game versus the Wichita State Shockers in the Second Round of the Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, RI. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

March 19, 2016: Head Coach Jim Larranaga of the Miami Hurricanes during the Miami Hurricanes game versus the Wichita State Shockers in the Second Round of the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship at Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, RI. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

To be fair, we have no idea what an internal matter even is. Does that mean he has to run extra sprints at practice? Will the school force him to take anger management classes? Will there be any form of formal punishment at all, or will this get blown to the wayside because the university really wants this matter to fly under the radar, the product of a desire to ensure that any prosperity Huell brings to the team won’t be tarnished?

Here is where speaking in absolutes is not a good idea. We lack the complete facts of the case. If we are to believe James’ statement about waiting for them to be available before taking any course of action, the university must now have all of them — or at least more than we know. Otherwise, how else can we explain the non-action (or internal matters-action) from the program?

If Huell was a walk-on, a two-star recruit, or anyone not projected for greatness, there’s a more-than-solid chance the university would not be going out of its way to not only keep this story from becoming a bigger one, but to prevent the player from missing a single game.

Here is where this becomes unfair to the school because of dopes like me: Perception is often reality. Here is also where James’ statement of taking action on “any” misconduct comes back to bite him in the rear.

The facts available to the public from news and police reports are that Huell entered the Florida International University dorm room of his ex-girlfriend — unannounced — around 4 p.m. on September 13. He supposedly found her in the closet with a male visitor. Police say Huell, who is almost seven feet tall, grabbed the man by the shirt and “forcefully dragged him out of the room,’’ leaving him with a few scratches in the neck and chest. No punches were thrown.

That is all we know: A young man came into a room without invitation, grabbed another man, and dragged him out of his ex-girlfriend’s room. The fact that no punches were thrown is important, but so too is not overlooking the evidence that he walked into someone else’s living space without regard for anyone or anything. Generally speaking, we aren’t hasty to forgive or not punish random people for showing up inside our houses… regardless of intent or even context.

Larranaga claims Huell realizes he made a mistake and is learning from it. Maybe he is right and maybe that is totally factual. Still, we mostly want to hold people accountable for their actions. If Larranaga thinks it is appropriate to let the legal process determine what level of accountability the player should face (and for the school to handle the matter internally), so be it.

At the very same time, he can be protecting the kid from something we often unfairly do to people — judge them by their worst public act. If that is the case and this is not an instance of putting basketball ahead of morals, I would actually applaud Larranaga’s stance. That said, we will probably never know any of the internal dealings as far as this matter is concerned.

Hindsight is always 20/20. We don’t yet have that ability now in regard to how Miami handled this entire situation. Maybe the school is doing the exact right thing, maybe not. Again — albeit only on the surface — this screams good basketball player getting a benefit of the doubt rarely afforded others.

Maybe it’s not that, but since perception is often reality, this entire ordeal sets a questionable precedent. If other things go awry under the coach’s watch, people will be able to point to non-actions like this as an example for potential calamities that await.

This is a hill, even if indirectly so, the university appears willing to die on.

Miami’s handling of Dewan Huell troubling but layered

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