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BYU/Davies: Mekeli Wesley reaches out in empathy

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 2:20 a.m. MDT

PROVO — Media coverage of Brigham Young University, its men's basketball team, suspended center Brandon Davies and the BYU honor code entered its second week at nearly full-steam, fueled by the questions shadowing the Cougars as they begin postseason play, by ongoing global commentary on the university's actions and by Davies' presence on the Marriott Center bench during Saturday's regular-season finale against Wyoming.

Suspended from the hoops team last week for an honor-code violation, Davies drew supportive, encouraging chants from the sections of student fans during several lulls in Saturday's game and earned one of the loudest cheers when he was invited by his team to join in the championship post-game ritual of cutting down the nets.

The talking heads on TV sports shows like "Pardon The Interruption" and "Around the Horn" saluted BYU and Davies' weekend gestures as did other media, such as CNN's post "BYU basketball faithful still love Davies."

However, perhaps the most poignant coverage can be found with Diamond Leung's "Brandon Davies receives meaningful advice."

Leung writes of the empathetic outreach to Davies from Mekeli Wesley, who like Davies starred at Provo High and BYU . . . and who like Davies suffered a similar suspension from the Cougar team for his own honor-code violation more than a decade ago.

"I sat down with him and hugged him. We cried together," said Wesley, adding "I went through the exact same thing. He feels like he let the whole team down, the whole school down, the whole BYU nation down. That's a lot to deal with for a 19-year-old."

After sitting out his dismissal period, Wesley returned to play for the Cougars, earning Mountain West Conference player-of-the-year honors. BYU fans hope Davies will follow Wesley's path back to the Marriott Center court, which Wesley recounted for ESPN.

Wesley talked of tracking down Davies: "I said, 'Look, I know right now you're thinking hour-to-hour, day-to-day. There's no way you're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Right now, you see darkness. Trust me, it's going to be hard, but you have to be strong and in the end, people will respect you for overcoming your trail and adversity."

Wesley's show of support was a far cry superior than that over current big-name athletes Tim Tebow and Amare Stoudemire, reported by ESPN.

Tebow, the star quarterback and well-recognized Christian athlete, said "people definitely deserve second chances" and started to question whether BYU's "punishment" was appropriate.

Stoudemire, an NBA All-Star, was more direct in his Twitter responses: "Don't ever go to BYU, they kick a Young Educated (Black) Brother OUT OF SCHOOL . . . Come on BYU don't kick the kid out of school. Let's be honest he is n college. Let's the kid live a little."

Stoudemire likely confused the suspension with being booted from school (a decision to allow Davies to remain has not yet been made). But he returned a day later with a toned-down Tweet.

"I totally understand the actions of BYU, I totally respect the school an the conduct rules. BYU has a great athletic program," he posted.

Commentary continues to come in from a diverse range of voices and publications, such as:

The Washington Times' guest opinion piece "A national champion in deed," penned by Southern Virginia University president Rodney K. Smith, who has served as a member of the NCAA's Infractions Appeals Committee: "As a college president, I wish more universities and their leaders would stand firm for such principles, rather than seeking to find ways to skirt the principle to obtain a momentary financial or reputational reward. Wins translate into dollars, especially at this juncture in the season for schools with excellent basketball teams like BYU's. Wins also bring attention, students, accolades and even donors to institutions with successful big-time athletic programs. They tempt institutions to relent on their obligations as educations.

"In the long run, wins slip into record books, but lessons taught and learned about commitment and honesty, about being true to one's self and a higher standard can shape a life and are critical to our nation's future. If the culprits in the Enron scandal or the major players in other economic or political lapses of integrity would have learned the lessons BYU and Mr. Rose [BYU basketball coach Dave Rose] are teaching Brandon Davies and others touched by this story, our nation's future would be more secure."

In its opinion titled "Three cheers for BYU which, sad to say, is unusual in putting honor before sports success," the New York Daily News offers this: "At another school, Davies' dalliance would not have raised an eyebrow — if anything, they'd raise him a beer. But BYU follows a different path, one that is extreme to many but central to the school's ethos."

In writing for the Bloomberg Businessweek, Scott Sochick says BYU's action "is reason for celebration": "What we have here, at long last, is an institution of higher learning acting the part. Pathetically, it's an all-too-rare case of a university placing a higher value on values than athletic glory and the massive payday and promotion that accompanies winning in these billion-dollar television contract days."

And the Washington Post invited its "On Faith" guest panelists to weigh in on the BYU/Davies issue as well.

The Post's own Kathy Orton wrote that "I'm rooting for BYU, and not just because I think Jimmer Fredette is one of the most exciting players to watch in college basketball today. The reason I'm throwing my support behind the Cougars is because the school recently did something few colleges and universities are willing to do these days: It stood by its beliefs."

And regular "On Faith" contributor Michael Otterson, who heads the public affairs department for the LDS Church (which also sponsors BYU) wrote: "BYU isn't going to throw this young man aside. Ultimately, the honor code is as much about the individual as the team or the school. Brandon Davies is more than a trending topic on Google. He is a young man full of energy, talent and opportunity, all of which remain present as he moves through what is undoubtedly a difficult time in his life. While this one mistake may redirect his life for a time, it does not define who he is. Those who care for him, including his church leaders, are reaching out to help, guide and support. Friends, family and true fans likewise. There are a lot of people at BYU who will do all they can to help Brandon get through this trial in his life and come out on top. He isn't just an athlete, but a child of God. No one knows yet how that will happen, but I do know that they will do everything they can to make it work and help him put all this behind him."

e-mail: taylor@desnews.com

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