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Originally published February 15, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 15, 2007 at 1:06 AM

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Heytvelt's suspension should last all season

Tuesday, a story on the Spokane Spokesman-Review Web site offered a glimpse into the phenomenon that is the radioactive Josh Heytvelt-Theo...

Seattle Times college basketball reporter

Tuesday, a story on the Spokane Spokesman-Review Web site offered a glimpse into the phenomenon that is the radioactive Josh Heytvelt-Theo Davis drug-arrest story.

A commander at the Spokane County Jail is investigating charges of preferential treatment given the two Gonzaga basketball players on the morning after the bust.

So, the cops softened the police report, did they? Did the two players get to walk when others would have stayed behind bars?

No, the probe centers on why the two got to be picked up by an attorney at a spot usually reserved for law-enforcement personnel, so as to avoid media exposure.

What better use for your tax dollars than a thorough inquiry, right, Spokane?

However niggling the side issue, it illustrates the hot-button nature of this story in Spokane. In a week's time, seven of the 10 most-read stories on the Spokesman-Review's Web site had to do with Heytvelt and the Zags. Everybody has an opinion on what should happen.

Here's another: Heytvelt should stay suspended from the team for the rest of the season.

There are three processes going on here: The legal one, Gonzaga's as a university, and the basketball program's own wheels of justice.

Prosecutors haven't brought charges. Meanwhile, the university seems to be pointed toward a moderate reaction, something short of expulsion. It will track closely the legal process.

The basketball program's response is another thing entirely. Across the country, some coaches routinely wait until the legal system decides. Others determine "probable cause" by doing their own diligence, and judge quickly. Some of that is going on in the Heytvelt case right now.

Assuming that the facts are as portrayed in the police report, assuming there isn't some sort of frame job, assuming no vastly extenuating circumstances, Heytvelt should stay seated (Davis is redshirting already).

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It is, after all, a privilege -- not a right, no matter if you're a shot-blocking, trey-splashing, 6-foot-11 center -- to be a part of the Gonzaga program, even if its sanctity might have been overstated.

To bring Heytvelt back after a two- or three-game sit invites too many problems, both moral and practical. Imagine opposing crowds and media skepticism. And imagine it if the Zags made the NCAA tournament.

You also have to wonder if, in their heart of hearts, fifth-year seniors like Sean Mallon and Derek Raivio are very keen about a guy who essentially betrayed them, and their last chance to play in an NCAA tournament.

But the best reason to sustain the suspension is this: The affair is a lot bigger than basketball. To reinstate him now would be to trivialize more important issues, not the least of which is Heytvelt's well-being.

Beyond that, Heytvelt doesn't deserve to come back this quickly, if appearances are correct. He didn't take the whole thing seriously enough.

The university's approach seems eminently reasonable, especially since lots of its students do what Heytvelt is alleged to have done, just as many college kids do across America. For comparison, when Notre Dame guard Kyle McAlarney was busted for marijuana possession last fall, the school simply booted him.

But the basketball team is another threshold. Gonzaga students, unlike student-athletes, aren't getting a free education at a $31,000-per-year university, and kids in Spokane don't line up to get autographs from members of the Kennel Club.

So the Zags need to cool it, to take a step back. Wait until the balls are put away, and establish conditions for the return next year of Heytvelt and Davis.

If they want to return, great. If not, Gonzaga will still be better for it. The school will finally know what Heytvelt and Davis seemed to be saying on that forgettable Friday night -- that the program really wasn't that important to them.

Homeboys and Roadies

Tuesday, the NCAA basketball committee's Gary Walters had an hourlong teleconference, an annual routine for the chair of the panel. Those folks can't address specific teams, so we asked a purple-and-gold draped question:

How do they handle a team that has done next to nothing on the road, but figures to have some impressive victories at home?

Walters could shed little light, other than to say, "Obviously, given the importance of the home-court advantage, wins on the road are more impressive than accumulating a record only achieved by playing at home."

Which, I'm guessing means this for Washington: If it finishes 9-9 in the Pac-10 without a victory at Pittsburgh on Saturday, its second-round game in the Pac-10 tournament will be pivotal.

Say this for Walters: He's taking his work seriously. He said he watched 12 games Saturday from noon to midnight, watched more games from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, and "had a chance to watch four or five games as well" Monday night.

Scouting, Spartan-style

A few years ago, future Michigan State guard Drew Neitzel's high-school team was playing at MSU's Breslin Center in a highly anticipated state-semifinal game against Detroit Renaissance, among whose stars was Malik Hairston, now at Oregon.

As the Detroit Free Press recalls it, MSU coach Tom Izzo couldn't attend the game -- it was a "dead" period for recruiting -- and neither could hundreds of people who couldn't get into the gym.

Izzo sat back to watch the game on television in his office, which features floor-to-ceiling windows. He turned around to see onlookers, and motioned them up to the glass so they could watch, too. He says several hundred saw Neitzel score 36 that day.

Snoring, and sitting

Oklahoma State starters Terrel Harris and Byron Eaton didn't get into the Texas Tech game until it was several minutes old -- because they fell asleep during a video session.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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