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South Florida Bulls basketball guards Mike Mercer and Anthony Crater arrested; Mercer's future with team in doubt

TAMPA — USF guard Mike Mercer's future with the basketball team is in jeopardy, coach Stan Heath said Saturday, after his second arrest in four months, Friday for marijuana possession.

Arrested with him was teammate Anthony Crater. They have been charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Both remained in jail awaiting $500 bond as of 8 p.m. Saturday.

Both were suspended from the team indefinitely. Neither Mercer (knee injury) nor Crater (not yet eligible as a transfer) was currently playing.

Heath said he would decide by Monday whether to dismiss Mercer from the team, something he has never done in his two decades as a college coach.

"The guys have to understand they represent not only themselves, but they represent their school, their families," Heath said after his team's 70-61 loss to No. 20 Villanova at the Sun Dome. "You make decisions … your commitment, your character, what you're all about. Those are things that are very important to me. … (This) is something I'm not going to accept in our program."

Mercer is under greater scrutiny than Crater, also a guard, because he was arrested in September for public consumption of alcohol.

Mercer transferred from Georgia, where he had been dismissed from the team in 2007 for what Georgia coach Dennis Felton called "being a disruption." Heath said he had talked to Mercer about the need for him to change his behavior after his last arrest.

"I don't think I necessarily said 'One more chance,' but he knew his back was against the wall," Heath said. "He swore to me he wouldn't cross the line. When you breach trust, that's not a good thing."

Mercer, a 22-year-old junior, isn't playing because of a season-ending knee injury last month. Crater, a 19-year-old freshman, is sitting out the season after transferring Jan. 5 from Ohio State.

According to police reports, the players were arrested by Hillsborough County Sheriff's officers at 11:56 p.m. Friday at the intersection of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Bearss Avenue, close to USF's campus.

A blue Dodge Charger driven by Mercer, going north on Bruce B. Downs, "crossed three lanes of traffic and cut in front of" the arresting officer, causing him to brake, the report said. The car was pulled over at 11:15 p.m., and the officer reported that "the smell of marijuana was emitting from within the vehicle." A search of the car produced a "brown marijuana cigarette" under the passenger seat, where Crater was sitting, and both players told police they had knowledge of the marijuana and were "about to smoke it."

They were booked into the Orient Road Jail at 2:05 a.m. Saturday. Each was charged with possession of marijuana less than 20 grams, a first-degree misdemeanor that often results in community service, court fees and probation.

Mercer was arrested in September for public consumption of alcohol, also a misdemeanor. Charges were dropped after he completed a pretrial misdemeanor intervention program. Heath's discipline of Mercer for that arrest did not include a game suspension.

Both players could be competing for starting roles next season if they remain with the team. Mercer started all four games he played before injuring his knee, averaging 8.5 points.

South Florida Bulls basketball guards Mike Mercer and Anthony Crater arrested; Mercer's future with team in doubt 01/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 24, 2009 10:18pm]
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