College Basketball

Duke’s Sulaimon denies sexual assault claims

Duke's Rasheed Sulaimon, left, reacts with assistant coach Jon Scheyer, Amile Jefferson and Justise Winslow during the Blue Devils win at St. John’s on Jan. 25. The victory was Mike Krzyzewski’s 1000th as a coach. Coach K dismissed Sulaimon from the team just four days later.
Duke's Rasheed Sulaimon, left, reacts with assistant coach Jon Scheyer, Amile Jefferson and Justise Winslow during the Blue Devils win at St. John’s on Jan. 25. The victory was Mike Krzyzewski’s 1000th as a coach. Coach K dismissed Sulaimon from the team just four days later. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Rasheed Sulaimon made his first public comments since his dismal from the Duke basketball team, telling ESPN this week that he did not sexually assault anyone and that his departure from the basketball team was not related to those allegations.

"I have never sexually assaulted, not only anyone on the Duke campus, but anyone period," Sulaimon told ESPN. "It's not in my nature at all. I have great respect for the role of women in society. I would never demean or do anything to a woman in this manner. No, I've never done anything like this in my life.”

Sulaimon did not specify the reason for his Jan. 29 departure. He did say that he grew frustrated with his lack of playing time, which diminished every year after his freshman season.

"I'm a very competitive guy and I believe I should have been starting," he told ESPN. "Quite simply, I just got frustrated. In retrospect, in looking back on it, I didn't handle it well at all. My immaturity and me being frustrated with hitting adversity, I think it greatly impacted my relationship with Coach K heavily.”

Sulaimon told ESPN that he has not spoken with coach Mike Krzyzewski since his dismissal. In a meeting with Krzyzewski, Sulaimon said, he read him the statement that was released to the media. He left the meeting stunned.

"Rasheed has been unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program," Krzyzewski said in the Jan. 29 statement. "It is a privilege to represent Duke University and with that privilege comes the responsibility to conduct oneself in a certain manner. After Rasheed repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations, it became apparent that it was time to dismiss him from the program.”

A month after Sulaimon’s departure, the Duke Chronicle, the school’s student newspaper, released a story —based on anonymous sources — reporting two allegations of sexual assault were made publicly against Sulaimon during the 2013-14 school year during two off-campus retreats.

No police reports were filed.

Sulaimon told ESPN he met twice with Duke’s office of Student Conduct, once during the winter of his sophomore year and again in September 2014. He said he was never told that there was a second allegation.

"The university investigated the sexual assault allegation, and they knew it was unsubstantiated, so Coach K knew that, too, because I told him," Sulaimon told ESPN.

"The second meeting, after we talked, the tone was a lot lighter. They told me to keep living my life and be a student -- and not to worry about it.”

Sulaimon is still enrolled at Duke. He plans to attend both summer sessions and graduate in early August. After that, he will be free to transfer to another school and play next season. ESPN reported that Arizona State, Baylor, Colorado, George Washington, Houston, LSU, Maryland, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Seton Hall, SMU, Texas, Texas Southern and Texas A&M were among the school interested in him.

Sulaimon did not respond to a call for comment. Duke athletics spokesman Matt Plizga said the school would have no additional comment on Sulaimon.

Sulaimon told ESPN that he watched Duke win the national championship in his apartment and cried after the game.

“I was so happy for them because I knew the type of work they put in to get to that point,” Sulaimon told ESPN. “At the same time, I'm not going to act like I'm not human, I cried that night. I didn't cry because I was sad or mad they won. I was 100 percent elated. Shortly after that, I had to remove myself from the crowd as they were tearing up the house. I called my dad in great tears, telling him, 'Dad, I really missed out on something, I could have been a part of something that was bigger than me, and something that could have lasted a lifetime.'"

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