U’s Littlejohn shelves seven hoops players

by Ryan Schuster

Coach Cheryl Littlejohn on Monday suspended seven members of the Gophers women’s basketball team for violating team rules late Sunday night.
Littlejohn notified her players of the suspensions Monday during practice and the women’s athletics department sent out a press release to local media outlets Wednesday evening explaining the violations.
Senior center Angie Iverson, junior forwards Lynda Hass and Sarah Klun, sophomore guard Kiauna Burns and freshmen Theresa LeCuyer, Ayesha Whitfield and Brandy Pickens violated unspecified team rules. They will all miss the Gophers’ first-round game against Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament Friday in Indianapolis.
Iverson, the team’s leading scorer and starting center, and four more of the top seven scorers on the team are among the suspended players.
“I have high standards that I brought here, and I am not going to compromise them,” Littlejohn said after practice Wednesday.
As a result of the suspensions, juniors Sonja Robinson, Sarah Schieber, Mindy Hansen and Swantreca Taylor, sophomores Erin Olson and Andrea Seago and freshman walk-on Rachel Young will be the only seven players eligible to play on Friday.
Although neither Littlejohn nor any of her players would comment on which specific team rules the players broke, the regulations had apparently also been violated prior to Sunday’s incident.
Littlejohn said there was not enough evidence from previous violations to take action until the incident after the Gophers’ 71-59 loss to Iowa on Sunday.
The suspended players, who admitted to the violations and agreed with Littlejohn’s decision to suspend them, will still make the trip to Indianapolis with the team.
“We violated a team policy and this was the best way to handle it,” Iverson said. “We deserve the punishment that we received.”
Iverson is the only senior on the team and could miss the last game of her Gophers career.
Angie’s father, Dennis, said that the violation took place between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Sunday after he and Angie’s mother, Patricia, finished visiting with their daughter at her dorm.
“The thing that we don’t understand is we were there until 9 at (Angie’s) place,” Dennis said. “The infraction was pretty minimal. But I guess it was a Coach Littlejohn infraction. I guess that’s all that matters.”
The violations don’t appear to be basketball-related, and the players will not be punished further for the infractions, unless they happen again.
“We’re going (to the Big Ten tournament) to win,” Littlejohn said. “It’s a one-game suspension. If we win Friday night, everybody plays Saturday.”
But the likelihood of the Gophers — who are 4-22 overall, 1-15 in the Big Ten and in the midst of a season-high 11-game losing streak — winning without half their team is almost nil.
Of the seven players who were suspended, five were more than 6 feet tall, leaving reserve Andrea Seago as the team’s only true post player.
“I’m disappointed,” Littlejohn said. “But young people make mistakes. We’re trying to raise the standard here. There’s a lot of expectations here. I can’t compromise my standards.”