Published Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010 | 12:30 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010 | 7 p.m.
- Hearing set for UNLV’s Tre’Von Willis in domestic battery case (8-3-2010)
- UNLV’s Tre’Von Willis pleads not guilty to misdemeanor charge (7-21-2010)
- Police: UNLV’s Tre’Von Willis choked woman after argument (6-30-2010)
- Column: Recent actions, accusations give black eye to UNLV basketball program (6-29-2010)
- UNLV guard Tre'Von Willis arrested, accused in domestic dispute (6-29-2010)
On Tuesday afternoon, speaking publicly for the first time since his June 29 arrest, UNLV senior guard Tre'Von Willis offered up his story of what happened that night at the Henderson apartment of 28-year-old Skye Sanders.
His story was vastly different from hers, and the "he said, she said" case had been put to rest Tuesday morning with Willis reaching a plea agreement, pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery.
"I just feel awful about the last few months and the events that have taken place. I just made a mistake," he said after offering up his apologies. "I originally agreed to go over to the young lady's house, she had promised me a little bit of money. I went over there, started to argue a little bit, and from then, I grabbed her purse off of the night stand.
"That's when she tried to grab the purse from me. That's when I grabbed her hand, and I knew it was wrong. I know better. From there, I dumped the contents of the purse onto the bed and there was no money in it. Then I exited the apartment."
Sanders accused Willis of choking her, and the Fresno, Calif., native was arraigned on Aug. 3 and charged with one felony count of battery constituting domestic violence-strangulation and a misdemeanor charge of coercion.
The deal that was struck will force him to pay a $340 fine, serve 100 hours of community service within the next year, undergo 90 minutes of domestic-violence counseling per week for the next 26 weeks and have no contact whatsoever with Sanders. He also was given a suspended 90-day jail sentence, adding incentive for him to steer clear of trouble.
Kruger said that all fees for the services of attorney Steven Wolfson must be handled by Willis.
"No choking took place," Willis said while addressing the local media on the floor of the Thomas & Mack Center. "What I said happened, happened. That's all I can say about that."
The punishment everyone will be talking about the most moving forward, however, is the one from UNLV coach Lon Kruger, who said that his leading scorer from a year ago will be suspended for "at least" the first three games of the 2010-11 season.
That stretch will include home exhibitions against Grand Canyon College on Nov. 2 and Washburn on Nov. 9, then the regular season opener at the Mack against UC Riverside on Nov. 12.
The earliest he could be eligible to suit up would be on Nov. 17 at home against Southeastern Louisiana.
Willis earlier in the day put on his UNLV uniform for team pictures, and will be participating in practices, starting with the FirstLook event held Oct. 15 on the Rebels' home floor.
"He'll be held to a very high standard, and based on how he conducts himself over the next six to eight weeks, before the start of the season, we'll see if (the suspension) goes beyond 10 percent (of the season)," Kruger said. "First three games was what that amounts to and, again, it could be more depending on what happens."
Traversing the non-conference schedule will be much easier, obviously, if Willis complies with the expectations Kruger has of him in the coming months, as the suspension could end before a key home game on Nov. 20 against Wisconsin and a Thanksgiving weekend trip to Anaheim, Calif., for the 76 Classic.
The three-game punishment was decided upon as a result of research done by Eric Toliver, who is UNLV's senior associate athletic director in charge of compliance. He found that it was the average punishment for athletes dealing with misdemeanor charges.
"It's tremendously embarrassing, but this is the bed I made, and I've got to sleep in it," Willis added. "I don't think I can be sorry enough. There hasn't been a lot of good news for me the last couple of months, so I think at this time, I'd like to move forward and kind of get over this process.
"There's a lot of basketball everywhere, but as far as me being a part of this UNLV team, being a part of this program that I love, it was tough. I've thought about everything, thought about all of the options. At the end of the day, I wanted to stay here and play this season for us. I felt like I owed it to our coaches, my teammates. Me and Kendall (Wallace) have been here the longest now, so I feel like I still owe them a piece of me."
Willis's actions provided the biggest bruise during an offseason that was far from stellar for the program.
First came the end of senior forward Matt Shaw's career, thanks to a one-year NCAA suspension following a failed drug test at the NCAA tournament in Oklahoma City back in March.
Willis's arrest was next, leaving his status with the team in limbo for his senior season.
The latest blow was not of the disciplinary variety, but came earlier this month when senior back-up guard Kendall Wallace, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He'll redshirt this season and be back for a final time in the 2011-12 season.
Wallace and Shaw will be missed for their 3-point marksmanship. The duo combined to hit 87 of the team's 231 treys a year ago, including Shaw's team-leading 45 percent accuracy from deep.
But the loss of Willis could have been crippling.
A first team All-Mountain West Conference performer, he led the Rebels with 17.2 points per game as a junior, adding 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists on the side. He also pushed the program to its third NCAA tournament appearance in four years, and with several key returners this season, expectations are higher than they have been at any point in Kruger's tenure, which is beginning its seventh season.
"The standard for everyone goes up when one team member acts like Tre has, and we're all on a shorter leash," Kruger said. "The program's been damaged by Tre's actions. He understands that, his teammates understand that, and when you do something like that, you pay a price."