Arizona forward Ira Lee was cited for a super extreme DUI early Sunday morning after police say he nearly hit another vehicle on the University of Arizona campus.
Lee, a 20-year-old sophomore, was arrested in connection with being a minor with alcohol in his system and several DUI charges, ranging from impairment to the slightest degree to super extreme DUI, the arrest report said.
He has been referred to the UA’s dean of students office for review under the university’s student code of conduct. The athletic department is “reviewing the incident for team consequences,” according to a statement issued by the UA on Tuesday afternoon.
Two breathalyzer tests issued by campus police 30 minutes after the traffic stop showed that Lee had a blood-alcohol content of 0.215 and 0.198. The 6-foot-8-inch, 230-pound Lee had previously told police he had consumed one beer.
At about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, a UA police officer was stopped at a red light in the area of East Sixth Street and North Warren Avenue when he saw an SUV slam on its brakes to avoid hitting a silver car, driven by Lee, that had made a left turn onto southbound Warren.
The car continued to drive the wrong way down Warren at what the police officer said was over 30 mph, the report said.
The officer caught up to the car near Seventh Street and Warren at a stop sign and conducted a traffic stop. As he approached the car, the officer noted that Lee had his shirt off and was wearing overalls, with one of the straps hanging outside the driver’s side door, according to the report.
The officer asked Lee if he was all right, and Lee responded that his house was right down the street.
When the officer asked Lee if he’d had anything to drink, Lee said, “no no no,” but the officer noted the strong odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle and said in the report that Lee had red, watery eyes that appeared bloodshot.
The officer told Lee he’d almost hit another car, to which Lee said he knew and that his car registration was at his house. He gave the officer a temporary California driver’s license and was asked to step out of the car for field sobriety tests, the report said. During the “walk-and-turn” test, Lee displayed six out of eight cues that indicate intoxication.
He appeared to pass a second sobriety test, the one-leg stand. A second officer arrived and conducted a third field sobriety test, which Lee failed.
Lee was taken to the campus police department for breathalyzer testing, and was then cited and released to a female friend. His car, a 2017 Hyundai Sonata, was towed.
Court records show that Lee is also facing a misdemeanor charge of failing to yield the left turn at an intersection, in addition to the five misdemeanor DUI charges, according to Pima County Consolidated Justice Court records.
Lee is scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 10.
Lee, who will turn 21 on March 19, has been expected to be a major contributor for the Wildcats after averaging just 10.2 minutes per game as a freshman last season. Lee is one of just four Wildcats at two post positions vacated by Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic.
Lee averaged 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game last season but missed the final four games of the regular season and the Wildcats’ three-game Pac-12 Tournament appearance because of a concussion suffered in practice. He played only one minute in UA’s NCAA Tournament loss to Buffalo.
No active Arizona player has been charged with DUI during ninth-year coach Sean Miller’s tenure. Guard Josiah Turner was arrested by UA police on suspicion of extreme DUI in April 2012, just weeks after the school announced he was leaving the team.
Late in the era of former coach Lute Olson, two UA guards were suspended after being charged with DUI. Hassan Adams was suspended for UA’s two-game appearance in the 2006 Pac-10 Tournament after his arrest, though he was later acquitted of the charges via jury trial. A year later, Daniel Dillon was suspended for UA’s one-game NCAA Tournament appearance following a DUI charge.
Lee’s arrest follows a string of off-court issues that have plagued the Wildcats the last three years.
The dean of students office found wing Elliott Pitts guilty of sexual misconduct in 2015-16, prompting him to leave the team and the school. Standout guard Allonzo Trier tested positive for a PED and missed 19 games in 2016-17, then tested positive again last season. The federal investigation into corruption in college basketball led to the arrest and eventual firing of assistant coach Book Richardson last fall.
Rules changes mean UA could learn sooner if it faces penalties
As part of sweeping changes into college basketball announced in August, the NCAA effectively cleared investigators to move ahead with cases involving Arizona and other schools implicated in the ongoing federal investigation.
On a webpage entitled “Committed to Change,” the NCAA said investigators can accept “information established by another administrative body, including a court of law, government agency, accrediting body or a commission authorized by a school.”
As a result, Arizona might learn sooner if it will face NCAA punishment as a result of any allegations in the federal complaint, including a statement that then-assistant coach Book Richardson accepted $20,000 in bribes and gave some of the money to a recruit who later committed to the Wildcats.
The NCAA also said it will now allow players to seek agents’ advice and return to school if not taken in the NBA Draft, while also requiring schools pay for basketball players’ tuition, books and fees if they return to get a degree as long as they initially spent two years at the school.
Those moves were some of the many resulting from recommendations of the Commission on College Basketball that was formed after federal investigators made their complaint public on Sept. 26, 2017. The federal complaint resulted in the arrest of Richardson and five other figures in and around college basketball.
“These changes will promote integrity in the game, strengthen accountability and prioritize the interests of student-athletes over every other factor,” NCAA president Mark Emmert and other NCAA leaders said in a statement. “It’s on us to restore the integrity of college basketball and continue to improve the interests of all student-athletes. They deserve nothing less.”
Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke was unavailable for comment, and UA coach Sean Miller could not be reached for comment. But Heeke told the Star in April that he supported the commission’s recommendations.
“I believe we’re at a point of time where we need to closely examine the sport of college basketball,” Heeke said. “This is another step forward in addressing some really problematic issues in the sport.”
The changes drew widespread reaction on social media, much of it positive over the changes benefiting athletes but also many doubts that amateurism itself was not addressed. The NCAA’s new plan does not include paying players.
“This is largely meaningless window dressing,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas tweeted.
Regardless, the rules changes will force schools to operate differently. Here are five ways Arizona’s basketball program will be affected:
1. The NCAA’s investigation into Arizona and other programs can move forward.
The NCAA was expected to largely wait until after the federal cases made their way through the legal system before issuing sanctions. That meant essentially freezing the status of Arizona and other schools involved.
But now, investigators have been empowered to take the federal complaint information and use it as evidence. (In the past, the NCAA corroborated all information on its own.)
Federal investigators say Richardson took $20,000 from agents, some of which he kept for himself and “some of which he appears to have provided to at least one prospective high school basketball player” in order to land that player at UA. Records indicated the player was New Jersey guard Jahvon Quinerly, who committed to Arizona in August 2017 but backed out in the wake of the federal complaint. Quinerly is now enrolled at Villanova.
The complaint also quoted agent Christian Dawkins saying that an Arizona player on last season’s roster had already been paid. Dawkins was also quoted as saying he had a friendly relationship with UA coaches.
While there is no rule against an agent having a friendly relationship with college coaches, several attorneys who have worked for schools on NCAA cases told the Star last fall that failure-to-monitor violations could be brought if an agent’s presence around the program led to the payment of players. Arizona could face further sanctions if the NCAA, citing the federal complaint, determines that a player from last year’s roster had been paid.
In 2000, the NCAA determined that Arizona star Jason Terry accepted over $11,000 total from agents during his junior and senior seasons. As a result, Arizona was forced to vacate its 1999 NCAA tournament appearance.
2. Undrafted players can return to school.
Players can now participate fully in the predraft process and, if they aren’t taken, tell their athletic director by 5 p.m. the Monday after the draft that they would like to return to school.
In theory, the rule change is a nightmare for coaches like Miller — even though it could mean getting a talented player back on the next season’s roster. Miller would, in theory, have to hold one of his scholarships open for that player until nearly July, making it extremely difficult to find a high-level replacement in the event that the player is drafted or chooses to play professionally overseas.
In reality, Arizona’s NBA prospects won’t be on the fence that long.
Five UA players — Brandon Ashley (2015), Kobi Simmons (2017), Chance Comanche (2017), Rawle Alkins (2018) and Allonzo Trier (2018) — have turned pro early only to be passed over in the NBA Draft.
All five signed with agents, however, and made it clear they would not return no matter what happened. (Alkins tested the draft in 2017 and opted to return to school by what was then a late-May deadline.)
The introduction of two-way contracts between the NBA and the G League offer another incentive for players to stick in the pro game, since they can earn between $75,000 and $275,000 depending on the amount of time they spend in the NBA.
Simmons, Alkins and Trier have all signed two-way deals, while Ashley has split time between the G League and Europe. Comanche spent last season with the G League’s Memphis Hustle.
3. Players can seek agents’ help.
Miller and his staff help guide players considering a jump to the NBA by compiling information about their draft potential. The NCAA is now allowing players to seek representation from agents, too, as long as they request formal evaluation from the NBA’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee.
High school players will be able to do the same, if and when the NBA allows them to jump directly to the NBA. There’s a catch: The high-schoolers must be designated as “elite senior prospects” by USA Basketball. It is unclear how foreign players such as former UA stars Lauri Markkanen and Deandre Ayton would be evaluated.
Agents will be allowed to pay for meals and transportation if they are related to the athlete’s agent selection process.
However, the NCAA said agents must be certified by an NCAA program “with standards for behavior and consequences for violations.” All agreements with agents must also be terminated when an athlete enrolls in or returns to school.
4. Recruiting will get trickier.
Major changes have been implemented with regards to recruiting. The NCAA will keep coaches away from the last two July weeks of travel-ball tournaments, which are typically sponsored by apparel companies.
That means UA coaches won’t have the luxury of a short trip to Las Vegas during the last week of July to evaluate nearly all their targets in the same city.
Coaches will, however, be allowed two open four-day periods in April to recruit and evaluate. They also can now attend NBPA Top 100 camp in mid-June and high school events approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations during the last two weekends in June.
Coaches will be allowed to attend travel-ball tournaments during the first weekend of July, when Nike’s well-regarded Peach Jam is played. They can also attend youth development camps in late July that will be run by the NCAA, USA Basketball and the NBA.
The changes mean Arizona will have to host players earlier and potentially more often.
Players are now allowed to take five official visits between the Aug. 1 before their junior year and the end of their junior year, plus another five from the end of their junior year until the Oct. 15 after their high school graduation. Yet another five are allowed between that Oct. 15 and the end of their college eligibility; those visits are presumably for transfers and academic nonqualifiers.
Schools can host a maximum of 28 visits over a rolling two-year span, up from the previous two-year maximum of 24.
5. Punishments could be tougher.
It’s unclear if Arizona will pay any penalties as a result of the federal investigation. If the UA does, however, the consequences could be severe.
The NCAA said it is adding independent oversight and investigators to complex cases, while noting that penalties can now include longer postseason bans, multiyear suspensions for coaches, increased recruiting restrictions and the loss of all NCAA Tournament revenue.
School presidents and chancellors will now be held accountable for their athletic department’s compliance with NCAA rules. In April, Heeke said Arizona administrators already believe that’s their job.
“We’re already responsible for that and accountable for the outcomes,” Heeke said. “We have the systems in place. And if we have the systems in place we can say we did everything we could to maintain the integrity of our athletics program.”