It's difficult for Tim Floyd to lure top-tier talent to UTEP, so the Miners coach took a risk others may not have to secure a former top 50 prospect.
He has signed former Oregon standout Dominic Artis just over a year after the standout point guard and two teammates were at the center of a sexual assault investigation.
Oregon dismissed Artis, fellow starter Damyean Dotson and Providence transfer Brandon Austin last year after a female student accused them of raping her the night of the Ducks' March 8 victory over third-ranked Arizona. Investigators concluded there was "no doubt the incidents occurred," but authorities declined to charge the three players, citing conflicting statements and actions by the alleged victim.
"We did extensive research on Dominic's history and character through people who have known him since he was a child, and throughout his high school and college career," Floyd said in a statement. "Based on our due diligence, meeting with Dominic and his parents, and the endorsement of Matt Willms who played with Dominic in prep school, we feel comfortable adding him to our team.
"I understand where some may be concerned. I have a daughter of my own. This was not a quick decision. A lot of research and conversation occurred before we chose to move forward. Dominic made a poor decision, and as a result has learned a tough life lesson. But I believe he is a good person and is worthy of a second chance."
UTEP's decision to take a chance on Artis underscores the risks some programs are willing to take to raise their stature in college basketball. The Miners have averaged 20.6 wins per season during Floyd's five-year tenure, but they have finished no higher than tied for second in Conference USA and they have neither made the NCAA tournament nor won a postseason game in the NIT or CBI.
What Artis will bring UTEP is a pure point guard the likes of which the Miners haven't had in a while.
The 6-foot-1 California native started 25 games as a freshman, averaging 8.5 points and 3.2 assists and helping propel the Ducks to a 28-win season and a Sweet 16 berth with his ability to create off the dribble and his fierce on-ball defense. He tailed off a bit as a sophomore as he lost his starting job while serving a nine-game suspension for selling school-provided shoes and never regained the consistency he showed during his freshman season.
Nonetheless, Artis projects as an impact player in Conference USA if he can avoid further off-court trouble. His presence should allow rising sophomore combo guard Omega Harris to play off ball where he is most comfortable. Artis' ability to create for himself and others also will help the Miners find ways to score despite the early departure of leading scorer Vince Hunter to the NBA draft.
"I am grateful to Coach Floyd for giving me another opportunity, a second chance," Artis said in a statement. "I made a mistake and used poor judgment, but I have learned from this. I am excited about this opportunity at UTEP."
Artis is the second of the three Oregon players who have received a second chance. Houston coach Kelvin Sampson signed Dotson last month in hopes that the talented wing can help accelerate the Cougars' bid to become competitive in the American Athletic Conference.
Ultimately, how Floyd's gamble is regarded will come down to how Artis plays and how he behaves.
Artis is capable of becoming a standout point guard for UTEP, but another off-court misstep could bring a torrent of negative publicity for him and the school and raise questions regarding whether Floyd and his staff vetted the Oregon transfer's past sufficiently.
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