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NCAA basketball notebook: 2 Rutgers players defend fired coach Rice

| Thursday, April 4, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
The 2012-13 AP All-America men's college basketball team (from left) Trey Burke, Michigan; Doug McDermott, Creighton; Victor Oladipo, Indiana, Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga and Otto Porter Jr., Georgetown. (AP Photo)
Miami coach Jim Larranaga and his wife Liz pose with the trophy after he was introduced as The Associated Press men's basketball coach of the year on Thursday, April 4, 2013, in Atlanta. Larranaga led Miami to the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament titles and a No. 2 ranking.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Two Rutgers basketball players on Mike Rice's team say the fired coach wasn't the abusive tyrant he appears to be on a widely viewed video that ultimately cost him his job.

“You can't let those individual moments define what he was,” junior forward Wally Judge said. “In my past two years, me being an older guy and being under other coaches, I have grown from the moment I stepped in these doors, not only as a player but also as a person because of how he has treated me.”

Sophomore forward Austin Johnson agreed.

“He did a lot for us off the court, academically, socially,” he said. “I have to say I enjoyed my time, even if it was an emotional rollercoaster.

“I am not saying what he did wasn't wrong, because I do believe it was wrong. But it is also tough because it was a highlight reel of his worst moments.”

Rice was fired Wednesday, the day after a video aired on ESPN showing him shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players in practice and using gay slurs.

Pitt guard Tray Woodall also defended Rice, who recruited him when he was an assistant coach there.

Woodall said Rice is “not the only coach to put his hands on a player, or talk the way he did.”

Judge insisted Rice wasn't a “villain.”

“He wasn't a guy we hated or despised,” Judge said. “After practice, we would all go in the locker room and laugh. It was never a sad face or a hung head. When we got in the locker room we were a family. We laughed.”

Also Thursday, Rutgers said it will pay Rice the $100,000 bonus that he is due for lasting through the season. His five-year contract called for a $100,000 bonus if he completed the 2012-13 season.

Rutgers assistant steps down amid scandal

Rutgers assistant coach Jimmy Martelli, who worked with Rice at Robert Morris, resigned amid a scandal over the way his former boss treated players.

The Star-Ledger reported Martelli was seen in a portion of the video that was not broadcast on television shoving a player during a practice.

Martelli is the son of St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli.

Murdock sought$950K as settlement

An attorney for Eric Murdock, Rutgers' former director of player development, sought $950,000 from the university as settlement for Murdock's wrongful termination claims, according to an ESPN report.

Barry A. Kozyra, Murdock's attorney, sent a two-page letter in December to the university seeking $950,000. The letter was dated two weeks after Rice was suspended three games without pay and fined $50,000 for violating athletic department policy.

Burke, Larranaga win AP honors

Michigan sophomore point guard Trey Burke and Miami's Jim Larranaga were selected The Associated Press' college basketball Player and Coach of the Year, respectively.

Burke, who led the Wolverines into the Final Four, received 31 votes from a 65-member national media panel. Otto Porter Jr. of Georgetown was second with 16 votes, and Victor Oladipo of Indiana got 10.

Larranaga, who led Miami to the ACC regular season and tournament titles and a No. 2 ranking, received 29 votes. Jim Crews of Saint Louis got 19 votes, and Mark Few of Gonzaga had 11.

Around the nation

Ed Rush resigned as the Pac-12's coordinator of officials following comments that he targeted Arizona coach Sean Miller during internal meetings before the league tournament. ... Memphis forward-guard Adonis Thomas plans to sign with an agent and declare for the NBA Draft. … A 22-year-old Michigan State student has been charged for his role in furniture fires in East Lansing following the Spartans' loss to Duke in the NCAA Tournament. His name wasn't released.

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