North Carolina star point guard Ed Cota and backup Terrence Newby were suspended indefinitely from the basketball team after several people were involved in a fight early Monday.
Cota and Newby, the only seniors on the roster, turned themselves in to campus police Monday afternoon after warrants were issued for their arrest on three counts of assault inflicting serious injury and two counts of simple assault. All the charges are misdemeanors.
Cota and Newby denied they were involved in the fight near a residence hall, which was a carryover from a Halloween celebration on Franklin Street, the main street in Chapel Hill adjoining the campus.
"I support them and I love them to death, but we have a policy that if there is a fight you run the other way because this is what happens, there were others involved and they were the ones recognized," coach Bill Guthridge said Monday at a news conference.
Guthridge said the two players told him they were defending friends and trying to break up the fight.
"If what they told me is true then they will be back (soon)," Guthridge said. "I don't have any reason not to believe them, but I want to get all the facts. It's one of those `he-said, she-said' things. Sometimes you don't get all the facts."
Guthridge and athletic director Dick Baddour have spoken with police, who are still investigating the incident.
"Keep in mind this is the first day, so we need some time to understand all the dynamics of this," Baddour said.
Cota, a second-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference performer last season, is regarded as one of the best point guards in the country. He averaged 7.4 assists last season, fourth in the nation.
Newby, who has played little in his career at North Carolina, was slated to be Cota's backup at point guard. The Tar Heels are also without point guard Ronald Curry, who ruptured his right Achilles' tendon while playing quarterback for the football team.
The Tar Heels practiced Monday without the two suspended guards, who won't practice with the team until the incident is resolved.
"It's pretty hard to play without a point guard," said Guthridge, who has only freshman Jon Holmes and a walk-on left to fill the position.
North Carolina, expected to be ranked in the preseason Top 10, opens its season Nov. 22 in the Maui Tournament in Hawaii.
The players were taken to the Orange County magistrate's office and released under $1,000 unsecured bonds. Their court date was set for Dec. 6.
Three other students involved in the fight told police they were injured.
"Halloween night has gotten a little bit rambunctious," Guthridge said. "A few years ago it used to be fun."
David Spaulding, 20, was listed in good condition at UNC Hospitals, school officials said. The other two students were treated and released from the school's Student Health Service.
UC Police Maj. Jeff McCracken said additional arrests were possible.
Guthridge said he wasn't overly concerned that the players were out at 2:50 a.m.
"Back in my era, many years ago, everybody went to bed before midnight," the 62-year-old Guthridge said. "Now, the college students go out at midnight. They didn't break any team rules as far as being out late."
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