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Report: Okey suspended for allegedly smoking marijuana

October 21, 1997

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ Sam Okey was suspended by University of Wisconsin basketball coach Dick Bennett after the coach was told the Badgers junior forward had been smoking marijuana, The Capital Times reported Tuesday.

An athletic department source told the newspaper that the suspension took place after Bennett confronted Okey with the information he received last Thursday afternoon.

The source wouldn’t say who brought the information to Bennett’s attention, the paper reported.

Okey, the Badgers’ top returning scorer, was suspended Friday for two weeks of practice and Wisconsin’s first four games.

A school news release said it was for disciplinary reasons.

Bennett had a lengthy meeting with Okey and his parents Friday to discuss the player’s future with the basketball program, the paper reported.

Bennett and athletic director Pat Richter have not commented on the particulars of the suspension.

Wisconsin sports spokesman Steve Malchow wouldn’t comment on the story Tuesday. Without specifying why Okey was suspended, he said the infraction wasn’t enough to merit suspension from the NCAA.

At a news conference Monday, Bennett said he wasn’t concerned about any rumors resulting from his refusal to explain why he suspended the 1996 Big Ten freshman of the year.

``People will think what they will. But there are, I believe, stronger reasons to handle it as we have,″ Bennett said.

He added the suspension was not due to any criminal activity.

Okey’s 18-year-old brother, Andy, said his brother doesn’t do drugs.

``He doesn’t do that stuff,″ Andy Okey said. ``He’d tell me if he did that.″

Andy Okey said he doesn’t know why his brother was suspended. He said his brother wasn’t home and he didn’t where to reach him in Madison.

Reports also surfaced Monday that Okey received a warning for underage drinking Aug. 12 at a campus bar, the newspaper reported.

Madison police found Okey, another man and two underage women drinking in a booth. The other man was released while Okey and the two women were given breathalizer tests. Okey registered a 0.05, below the legal limit. The two underage women showed barely a trace, according to the paper.

The Capital Times reported that the athletic department source was unaware of that incident and said that wasn’t what sparked the suspension. But the source said Bennett has been upset with Okey for a series of problems.

In July 1996, Okey paid a $334.50 fine after being arrested for trying to enter a Whitewater tavern with a fake identification card. An employee of the Main Street Tavern called police June 9 saying Okey flashed what appeared to be a fake Michigan driver’s license.

Okey said in November that he was sorry about the incident.

``That was a mistake I made. Don’t look into it like this kid is a bad seed,″ Okey said.

Two of Wisconsin’s three captains _ guards Sean Mason and Ty Calderwood _ agreed with Bennett’s decision.

Calderwood told the paper he talked to Okey several times since the suspension and said it already has changed him.

``I think he knows and understands what he needs to do and how he is such a big part of this team,″ Calderwood said. ``We all know he’s a big part of this team, so we will embrace him when he comes back.″

Bennett has had to discipline players in the past since arriving at Wisconsin.

Calderwood was pulled from the starting lineup and held out of the first several minutes of the Badgers’ loss to Texas last March in the first round of the NCAA tournament because he showed up late the night before for the team dinner.

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