JMU Again Suspends Its Star Guard
HARRISONBURG – Early last month, star guard Andre Nation dismissed the James Madison basketball team’s lowly standing in the Colonial Athletic Association and predicted the Dukes would once again be playing in the NCAA Tournament come March.
Madison might have to back up Nation’s guarantee without his services.
Following Friday’s practice at the Convocation Center, Dukes coach Matt Brady confirmed that Nation – who sat out this season’s first 15 games for what sources said was a second failed drug test – has been suspended indefinitely for failing to meet the program’s academic standards.
“I’m frustrated for [Nation], as much as anything else,” Brady said. “And that’s as much as I’ll say about that.”
Nation, a sophomore who is JMU’s leading scorer and rebounder, did not travel with the team (11-18 overall, 6-9 in the CAA) for tonight’s regular-season finale at Hofstra (8-22, 4-11), and his status for next week’s Colonial tournament quarterfinals and beyond remains unclear.
When asked if he expected to have Nation back for the CAA tournament in Baltimore, Brady paused for five seconds before responding, “If he complies satisfactory to the standards that we have, then I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be.”
Nation was last out of Madison’s lineup on Feb. 8 when he took what was described as a personal leave and didn’t travel with the team for its 78-60 loss at Drexel. Both Brady and Nation called that decision a mutual one at the time, but when Nation returned in JMU’s next game – a 59-53 win over Hofstra on Feb. 10 – Brady said in his postgame comments, “We give [Nation] a checklist of things to do, and he needs to just make sure he’s getting it done.”
Brady later added, “We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make sure we safeguard him getting his college degree.”
This was not the first instance of Nation running into trouble because of academics, either. Brady benched Nation for the entire first half of last season’s regular-season finale against William & Mary, saying at the time Nation had not fulfilled his academic responsibilities.
Friday, the decision to suspend Nation was made by Brady alone, he said, and was not prompted by any athletic department policies. JMU declined to make Nation available for comment. However, shortly after news of his suspension began to spread, Nation took to his Twitter account (@YBG_Dre) and posted, “God gotta plan for me I swear he do.”
Nation and sophomore point guard Ron Curry came to the Convocation Center together Friday before Curry said Nation was called into a meeting with the coaching staff.
Following that meeting, Nation – who shares an apartment with Curry and fellow sophomores Taylor Bessick and Charles Cooke – left the arena. The team then departed for Hofstra shortly after practice.
“It’s not awkward, because I’m always there for him,” Curry said. “That’s just my big brother, so I’m always there for him. Me and him, we always talk. It’s not awkward at all. You gotta feel for somebody in this situation. I don’t know exactly what happened, but he’s … not allowed to play basketball and that’s one thing he looks forward to every day. So you just kinda gotta be there for him in times like this.”
It’s a big blow for the Dukes, who are still in contention for the No. 5 seed at the Colonial tournament entering tonight’s game. Nation burst onto the scene late in his freshman season, drawing national attention due to his impressive play and flamboyant personality during Madison’s run to a first NCAA Tournament bid since 1994.
Despite his lengthy absence to start this season, Nation had continued to show glimpses of his great promise – averaging team-best marks in points (15.2), rebounds (5.3) and steals (2.2) per game.
But his third stint away from the team this season seemingly couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Brady gathered his team near midcourt following Friday’s practice, one Curry described as chippy, and delivered a five-minute-plus address to his players as they stood around in silence.
Curry said the crux of Brady’s speech centered on staying humble, avoiding distractions and pushing forward.
“It’s just a difficult situation, kind of, to be missing him,” Curry said of Nation. “I don’t know what’s going on, but as far as I know it’s just tough for him and it’s tough for everybody. He’s kind of the missing piece on the court, and that’s just something me and him will talk about. We’ll just try to work it out and move forward.”
NOTE: Seldom-used freshmen forwards Tom Rivard and Ivan Lukic will be in uniform for tonight’s game after not dressing for Wednesday’s loss to Towson. Rivard had been battling flu-like symptoms, while Lukic returned to practice on Thursday for the first time since suffering a concussion against Hofstra on Feb. 10.