University of Massachusetts Athletic Director Frank McInerney thinks there's a good chance that George Hardin, former Salt Lake Community College basketball player, will play for UMass later this season.

Hardin, a recruit who was to have been eligible to play Tuesday, was arrested with two starters for UMass early Tuesday morning on burglary charges.All three pleaded innocent to two counts each of unarmed burglary, possession of burglary tools and use of a motor vehicle in commission of a felony.

But, according to McInerney, his investigation has led him to believe that Hardin was an innocent bystander. "He was totally innocent of any wrongdoing. He happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

As a recruit, Hardin had two members of the team assigned to welcome him to the campus. The two, forward David Brown, the team's captain and leading scorer, and center Duane Chase, were arrested with Hardin. McInerney said he was told that Hardin was just riding in the back of the car and didn't know what was going to happen when he accompanied the two players for a ride.

According to police, Officer Jerry Millar spotted the players in a car traveling the wrong way on a one-way street with its lights out. While giving pursuit, Millar heard the burglary report on his police radio, according to Sgt. Timothy Sullivan. A woman had reported her portable stereo missing after being awakened by intruders in her Amherst home.

Millar found a stereo matching the description in the car, along with a microwave oven, a camera and crowbars and screwdrivers, Sullivan said. Authorities say they don't know who owns the other items.

The three were released on personal recognizance. Brown and Chase had their cases continued to Jan. 26; Hardin's was scheduled for Jan. 19. If Hardin has a favorable outcome on Jan. 19 he may then be allowed to play, McInerney said.