Detroit Mercy women's basketball player gets ultimatum: We'll pay for school, but you won't play

·6 min read

Either remain in school on scholarship or leave. But you can no longer play basketball for Detroit Mercy.

That was the ultimatum Maxine Moore said she faced Wednesday from Titans athletic director Robert Vowels.

Moore, the only women’s basketball player who planned to return to play for embattled coach AnnMarie Gilbert, told the Free Press on Thursday that she continues to weigh the school’s offer to keep her scholarship and remain as a student.

“I would like to just stay at Detroit Mercy, based on the fact that I'm projected to graduate on time, and there's so many good things for me happening off the court here at Detroit, from leadership roles to internships that I got because of basketball,” Moore said Thursday. “And the fact that my pride and joy, the love of my life — basketball — is being stripped away from me, is extremely devastating and completely unfair.”

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 23: Detroit Titans forward Maxine Moore (44) is defended by Cleveland State Vikings forward Nadia Dumas (33) during the second quarter of the women's college basketball game between the Detroit Titans and Cleveland State Vikings on February 23, 2020, at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 23: Detroit Titans forward Maxine Moore (44) is defended by Cleveland State Vikings forward Nadia Dumas (33) during the second quarter of the women's college basketball game between the Detroit Titans and Cleveland State Vikings on February 23, 2020, at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

That means UDM will have an entirely new roster for 2021-22 amid allegations in January of player abuse and mistreatment and NCAA violations by Gilbert from her former players. An athletic department spokesperson said Thursday that when the team has an official roster for next season, it will release it.

The university on April 15 affirmed its commitment to Gilbert despite the allegations. Detroit Mercy in a statement said it conducted an internal review and submitted its findings to the NCAA.

“Any concern from a student-athlete about health or safety receives my highest priority," Vowels said in a statement provided to the Free Press on Thursday night. "Every concern expressed from this team was heard by athletic and university administration immediately following the initial letter that was sent from the team and parents on Jan. 17. For the next two days, I listened first-hand to every member of the team and took appropriate action to look into each situation. We then conducted an internal fact-finding by an independent outside legal counsel and the allegations were not substantiated, which led to us retaining the head coach.

"In the months since concerns were first expressed, we have put steps in place to ensure compliance going forward and assure a safe and healthy environment for all student-athletes in this and every program. Also, our Athletic Academic Services Office works closely with all student-athletes to ensure they remain eligible to compete and complete their academic degree requirements."

Moore said she told by Vowels that Gilbert "wants to completely have a new team" and that the university supported that decision.

Gilbert has not been made available for comment by the university since the players accused her of NCAA violations months ago.

With Moore being removed from the team, that makes her the 14th and final player gone from the program after the women and their parents sent Vowels a letter in January detailing the allegations against Gilbert, who was hired in April 2020.

[ Detroit Mercy player blasts school on Twitter: My 'dream may no longer be achievable' ]

Moore initially entered the NCAA transfer portal March 18 but withdrew her name April 18 with intention to finish her eligibility and degree in communications at UDM. Only one other player from last season’s roster, Nicole Johanson, did not enter the transfer portal, but sources say the Valparaiso transfer plans to remain at UDM but will not play basketball for Gilbert.

Gilbert, whose five-year tenure as head coach at Eastern Michigan ended in 2012 with the school being placed on NCAA probation and a two-year show-cause banishment for the coach, is alleged by UDM players and parents of having created an environment “so toxic and draining that players have made comments in the locker room about having suicidal thoughts as well as purposely injuring themselves” to avoid potentially having to deal with Gilbert’s alleged “belittling and emotional abuse.”

After Gilbert resigned from EMU, the Eagles placed themselves on two years of probation for self-reported NCAA violations tied to practice and recruiting under Gilbert in the 2009-10 season. She was suspended without pay for a month and her salary was frozen for the 2010-11 season following a two-month investigation by EMU's compliance office, received a letter of reprimand and underwent mandatory counseling during her suspension. Gilbert also was required to attend an NCAA regional rules seminar and apologize to team members.

After her show-cause penalty expired, Gilbert coached at Division II Virginia Union for five seasons before landing the UDM job.  

Vowels canceled the Titans’ season Jan. 20 after a meeting with players following receiving their letter.

Moore averaged 4.0 points and 1.6 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, shooting 44.8% but played in only seven games and opted to sit out due to stress fracture issues in early January. She had surgery in June 2020 but returned to running by August.

In 2019-20 at Detroit, the 6-foot junior forward from Southfield and Birmingham Detroit Country Day product finished second at 8.1 points a game and added 5.0 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game. She earned Detroit Mercy Athletic Director's Honor Roll accolades and was named to the NCAA’s Division I Student-Athlete Engagement Group for the 2020-21 school year.

[ UDM women's basketball players flood transfer portal, abandoned by university ]

It would be a second transfer situation for Moore, who came to UDM after her freshman season at Western Michigan in 2018-19. She played in 29 of the Broncos’ 30 games that season with one start and averaged 4.1 points and 2.1 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, winning the team’s sixth player of the year award while also making the dean’s list in both semesters at WMU before transferring closer to home.

“I’m faced with the most stressful decision I’ve had to make in my life,” said Moore, who has a 3.85 cumulative grade-point average and a number of leadership positions on campus and in the Horizon League on top of her NCAA duties. “It’s a constant hell worrying, having anxiety about making the right decision.”

File photo of AnnMarie Gilbert.
File photo of AnnMarie Gilbert.

In high school, Moore helped Country Day win three Class B state titles and was a three-time Associated Press All-State selection.

Moore’s grandfather is former Michigan football All-American Lowell Perry, and her uncle is current New York Knicks general manager Scott Perry, who played basketball at Wayne State and began his coaching career at UDM under Ricky Byrdsong.

The school’s decision leaves Gilbert with no returning players for next season. She has one signed recruit in guard Taylor Blunt, a Morgantown, Pennsylvania, native who plays at The Peddie School in New Jersey.

The Titans announced the cancellation of the remainder of the 2020-21 season Jan. 20 after going 1-13 overall and 1-9 in Horizon League play in Gilbert's debut season at UDM.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Why Detroit Mercy basketball player was told she won't play next year