On Aug. 6, Khalif Wyatt will walk into a courtroom to face charges of soliciting prostitution and resisting arrest for a June incident in Atlantic City while celebrating his 21st birthday.
Whatever the judge imposes, which I’d expect would include a fine, probation and maybe community service, will pale in comparison to the ramifications Wyatt already has faced and will continue to face in the court of public opinion.
A rising senior at Temple, Wyatt’s arrest made local and national headlines that caused embarrassment to the player and the program.
“He’s paid a very dear price for his indiscretion,” Owls coach Fran Dunphy told Philahoops earlier this month.
And as much as Dunphy and Wyatt would like Aug. 6’s ruling to put the issue to rest, that’s probably not going to happen. Wyatt, who earned second-team All-Atlantic 10 honors while averaging 17.1 points last season, likely is going to face questions about the incident and his character all season – and beyond. And you know opponents’ student “cheering” sections aren’t going to let Wyatt live it down.
That’s just reality.
If a recent conversation with Wyatt is any indication, though, he is going to be able to handle it.
Speaking to myself and another reporter earlier this month, Wyatt calmly and frankly answered questions about his arrest.
Had it been me trying to answer those questions, I probably would have gotten testy and upset. But Wyatt stood there composed and responded without frustration, surely knowing he was going to have to face them at some point and man enough not to duck his own mistakes.
“I’m just trying to put it behind me, going forward trying focus on basketball and school and getting ready for the upcoming season,” said Wyatt, who put out a statement of apology shortly after the arrest. “I wanted everybody to know I made a mistake and I was sorry, that I know what I did and just wanted to own up to it as quick as possible and try to get it behind me.”
On the scale of one to Sandusky, what Wyatt allegedly did doesn’t register very high. His actions can’t be condoned, though, particularly as an example for youngsters who may look to Wyatt as a role model.
Wyatt’s biggest crime was ignorance, something that isn’t uncommon among college students. The difference with Wyatt is that, as a Division I basketball player, he is in a unique position as a public figure who is held to a higher standard than his peers – as he should be, especially considering not many of those peers could be in line for a multi-million dollar payday upon graduation.
“I know I let a lot of younger guys down,” he said.
That refrain is getting to be too familiar for the likable Temple star, who is building a bit of a resume of indiscretion. He was benched three times last season for a violation of team rules, the last of which came during the Owls’ loss in the A-10 tournament quarterfinals … in Atlantic City. (It would be a good bet, by the way, for Wyatt to steer clear of the Atlantic City Expressway).
The toughest thing for Wyatt about the June arrest was the embarrassment at first, something his Twitter followers and non-followers let him know about with their reaction. Besides much criticism, Wyatt also received a lot of support on Twitter.
The biggest relief, though, was the support he received from his Owls coaches and teammates.
“Just the initial embarrassment at first,” Wyatt said of the toughest thing about the incident. “Everybody forgave me. My teammates are behind me, my coaches are behind me, my family is behind me.
“…Everybody said they had my back 100 percent, starting with Coach Dunphy, to the assistant coaches all the way down, to my teammates, everybody. … The first thing on my mind was how Coach Dunphy was going to react. He didn’t yell at me. He was shocked but just wanted to let me know that he was behind me 100 percent and wanted to do anything he could to help me.
“It made me feel good about choosing Temple, about being a part of Temple. My teammates showed me so much support. My coaches showed me so much love. Nobody judged me on my team, or my coaches. Initially, when they were showing me all that love, it helped a lot, it helped me get over what I was going through.”
Said Dunphy, “I wish we were all perfect; we’re not. We all make mistakes. I’d like to tell you how perfect I am, but obviously that’s not true. He paid a dear price already. In the end, I think Khalif has learned a wonderful lesson about how life works. He’ll be fine and we’ll be OK. We’d like to move on from it.”
Of course moving on won’t be easy. Students have been known to needle opponents for much less. It certainly wouldn’t be surprising for one of those famously wonderful Big 5 rollouts to opine on the incident.
Like answering the questions, it is something Wyatt understands he is going to have to face.
“I’m actually looking forward to it,” he said. “I know the Big 5 teams, when they roll out their banners, I know they’re going to have something for me. But I always like playing on the road, always like hecklers anyway. It should be interesting.”
Message boards: Talk about this story and other Philadelphia college basketball topics in our message boards: philahoops.com/theboards
Related stories: Temple coach Fran Dunphy and Owls Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall discuss the challenge of playing in the new, improved Atlantic 10 this season.
Also, Dunphy covered various topics earlier this month in a lengthy conversation with Philahoops.
Finally, Dalton Pepper is looking forward to his first season with Temple after transferring from WVU.