Student athletes caught up in crime still allowed on the court

When the Central Red Raiders basketball team heads to state this week, they’ll be facing an opposing player who has been involved in a different kind of court. On Friday, the team will be playing against Milwaukee Washington High School, whose leading scorer has plead guilty for his involvement in an armed robbery.

When Central’s basketball team takes the floor at the Kohl Center in Madison for the state semifinal game against Milwaukee’s Washington High School, Deontay Long, 18, will be in the “Purgolders” starting lineup.

He pleaded guilty to his involvement in an armed robbery last summer. Under WIAA rules, the standout player was suspended from play for part of the following sports season.

“Because he’s a cross country runner, he sits out 25 percent of his fall sport, which, in cross country, is going to be about three or four meets,” sa id Wade Labecki, deputy director for the WIAA.

Central High School Athletic Director Joe Beran said student athletes at his school have joined sports to serve their penalties. Long has been a part of the cross country team in the past.

“We just make sure that they attend all the practices just like any other student athlete would on that team and they’re held to the same standards as anyone else,” Beran said.

The WIAA has its own set of rules but the member districts determine the punishment, which Long did serve.

“As far as does the penalty fit the crime, or what have you, that’s for others to judge,” Labecki said.

Beran says the opposing player’s situation has gained traction in local news and on social media, but he’s focused on Central.

“I learned a long time ago in this job not to worry about things I can’t control. That’s a situation I can’t control and Central High School can’t control, so we’re not going to worry about it.”

Because the athletic department has a good relationship with its fans, he’s not worried about any issues at Friday’s game.

“They learn to cheer for their team and not against the opponent. It’s been that way all year and I don’t anticipate it to be any different.”