USC announced on Thursday that sophomore shooting guard De’Anthony Melton would not play for the remainder of the season. Melton has not played in any games so far this year. He was held out in the midst of an internal investigation into his involvement in the Tony Bland bribery case. The assistant coach was indicted in November.
“Based on information discovered through its internal investigation regarding the receipt of extra benefits, primarily to a close family friend of De’Anthony Melton, USC has concluded that De’Anthony will not compete with the USC men’s basketball team in the 2017-18 season,” the University announced on its official athletics website.
Prosecutors told the Los Angeles Times they believe Melton’s family friend, David Elliot was offered a cash incentive to influence the player into signing with sports agent Christian Dawkins once he decided to leave for the NBA. Bland pleaded not guilty to the charges in November. In addition to Melton, Bland is accused of funneling payments to a companion of a different unidentified recruit in the 2018 class.
Melton himself has not been accused of accepting improper cash benefits. “It’s sort of the whole impression they’re concerned about,” Melton’s attorney Vicki I. Podberesky told the LA Times. “It’s very disappointing, but not unexpected.”
He will remain on scholarship, but he can no longer travel with the team. The school left a 2018-19 return open as a possibility in its announcement.
At least one player did not take too kindly to the news. Junior power forward Chimezie Metu voiced his frustration with the USC athletic department on Twitter.
“Punishing innocent ppl… I see what y’all on now @USC_Athletics,” Metu wrote.
He followed it up by tweeting, “‘He didn’t do anything wrong but let’s suspend him bc we’re selfish and have to protect our image’… makes sense.”
Last season, Melton averaged 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a true freshman. Without him, the Trojans have a 12-6 record.