UW's Venoy Overton talks of his suspension, says he's learned a lesson
Charged with an alcohol offense, Huskies guard Venoy Overton is back with the team as it enters the NCAA tournament and talks of learning a lesson.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Calling it a blessing, Venoy Overton is thankful to have the opportunity to play another basketball game for Washington.
He was suspended from the Pac-10 tournament after being charged with supplying alcohol to a minor.
At the time, the Huskies were in danger of missing the postseason. Then came three straight wins, giving them the conference tourney title and an automatic NCAA tournament berth.
"My career could have been over," Overton said Sunday. "I certainly didn't want it to end like that, being on the bench just watching and not being able to do anything about it.
"I just feel blessed right now."
Washington is the No. 7 seed in the East region, where it faces No. 10 Georgia in Charlotte, N.C.
Coach Lorenzo Romar said Overton, UW's backup point guard, will play in Friday's 6:45 p.m. game.
"I appreciate everything more now than I ever did," Overton said. "I can't really explain it more than that. Just happy I guess."
Speaking publicly for the first time since the criminal gross-misdemeanor charge was filed March 8, Overton admitted the past few months have been difficult.
He'd been the subject of a Seattle Police sexual assault investigation involving a 16-year-old girl stemming from a Jan. 8 incident.
The King County Prosecutor's Office decided against filing a charge because of questions about the girl's account and conflicting witness statements, according to a court document.
Overton was subjected to taunts from opposing fans during games at Pullman, Eugene, Ore., and at KeyArena when Washington played Seattle University.
"It was hard," he said. "I feel like just all that being said was kind of a bigger punishment than sitting out, from the fact this is my hometown and just reputation.
"You don't want the reputation of being known for that. ... So I feel like it was a bigger punishment that it turned out like that."
Overton, who had his first child in January, said he has drawn strength from his newborn son.
He said some of the facts in his case have not been accurately reported, but declined to specify.
He also said he's learned a lesson.
"You never know what's out there and what people's intentions are," Overton said. "You have to be careful. I appreciate the people around me, my family and my friends and coach Romar."
School officials said Overton has complied with the team's internal discipline.
On Monday, Romar acknowledged critics who felt he was too lenient on Overton. He said it was important to "stick with him and not throw him away."
Romar also said he was proud Overton is on pace to graduate this year with a degree in American Ethnic Studies. "He has learned a lot," Romar said. "The guy has one class next quarter to get his degree. I'll be excited to see him in his cap and gown."
Before the conference tournament, Overton had only sat out once in his four-year career.
Without Overton, the Huskies leaned heavily on point guard Isaiah Thomas, who played all but two minutes in the past three games.
Romar wants to cut back on Thomas' minutes and use Overton in relief. The 6-foot guard has played in two NCAA tournaments and 133 college games. He's averaging 6.0 points and 3.4 assists this season.
"Venoy can help us," Romar said. "He has experience. He's just a difference maker. He can do so many things out there."
Thomas welcomes the relief.
"There really isn't any change," he said. "It was a change what we did last week. Now we go back to what we've done for the past couple of years when we've been successful."
Overton said he wants to put his legal troubles behind him and focus on basketball, but his first appearance in Seattle Municipal Court is scheduled for April 1 — the day before the Final Four begins in Houston.
The charge is punishable by up to a year in jail.
"All I'm thinking about on is this next game and just taking advantage of this chance to play," he said. "That's where my focus is. Playing as hard as I can."
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