North Carolina

3 Winthrop University basketball players cited for marijuana possession

Winthrop student-athletes Adam Pickett, Joshua Ferguson and Nych Smith.
Winthrop student-athletes Adam Pickett, Joshua Ferguson and Nych Smith. Photo illustration

Three Winthrop University men’s basketball players have been cited for marijuana possession by York County, South Carolina, drug agents after police executed a search warrant at their off-campus home, police said.

It remains unclear what specific discipline the players will face, but Winthrop athletic officials did say there will be “consequences.”

Players Adam Rashad Pickett, 22; Joshua Armani Ferguson, 21; and Nycholas Donyell Smith, 22; all were charged Sept. 19 with possession of marijuana at their Rock Hill home on Cedar Street near the Winthrop campus, according to police reports from the York County Multijurisdictional Drug Enforcement Unit.

None of the three were taken into custody, police said. Each was issued a summons to appear in court, according to police and the incident report.

Drug agents in an investigation executed a search warrant at the home around 4 p.m. Sept. 19, said Marvin Brown, commander of the drug unit. Inside the home, Brown said police found that Ferguson and Smith each had about one gram of marijuana, and that Pickett had about 0.5 gram of marijuana.

The charges are misdemeanors.

A fourth resident had no marijuana and was not charged, a police incident report shows.

Police did not know the persons in the home were Winthrop players until the arrests were being made, Brown said. The persons being college basketball players “made no difference” in the investigation, Brown said.

All three play for Winthrop, a Division I program that competes in the Big South Conference. Winthrop has gained national stature over the past two decades after going to several NCAA basketball tournaments.

Winthrop athletic officials are aware of the charges, said Ken Halpin, Winthrop athletic director. While specific disciplinary measures for students are private under federal law, Halpin did say the players will be disciplined.

“The three players are facing consequences and disciplinary action,” he said.

Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey said disciplinary action is “being handled internally at this time.”

He added that none of the three players had previously been in any kind of legal or school trouble during their Winthrop tenures. The trio are the first Winthrop players to get in any legal trouble during Kelsey’s seven-year run as the Eagles’ head coach.

The team officially opened the 2018-19 season with practice this week, and Kelsey said the three -- all upperclassmen -- were hugely disappointed with themselves.

“We hold our athletes to very high standards and obviously do not condone this type of behavior,” Kelsey said. “I think very highly of these young men. They made a mistake and will learn from it.”

Pickett, Smith and Ferguson all figured to contribute to a Winthrop team that lost just two regular contributors from last year’s team.

Pickett, a Virginia native, appeared in 31 games last season, starting 18 and averaging 9.3 points. Miami, Fla.’s Ferguson averaged 10.2 points per game and was the team’s second-leading rebounder (7.4 per game).

Smith, a senior guard from Memphis, played in 14 games, but missed the second half of last season because he was ruled academically ineligible.