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SoCalHoops Recruiting News

The Kenny Brunner Saga Continues:
Georgia On My Mind--(Aug. 27, 2000)

Kenny Brunner.

Just the mention of his name about says it all for those who have followed his checkered career for the past few years. What can anyone say that hasn't been said already?   Well, it seems there's one more chapter left to write about Kenny, perhaps more, and once again its an off-court struggle which is keeping him from getting on the court.

Last Wednesday, Kenny was supposed to enroll at the University of Georgia.  But, as Andy Katz noted in his weekly column at ESPN.com, "Kenny Brunner will continue to be this year's Richie Parker until a school removes the Scarlet Letter from his name and gives him a chance to play."

Brunner has had a trouble past, and if it weren't so sad. . .  Brunner, one of the most talented point guards in his class at Dominguez three full seasons ago (wow, has it already been that long since the class of 1996-97 graduated?) first signed with Georgetown, where he started 16 games, but then wound up transferring to Fresno State after some off-court troubles. While Kenny enrolled at Fresno State, he never played one minute for Tark.   He was booted out of the school shortly after his arrival when he and Avondre Jones were busted after threatening and assaulting another Fresno State student with a samurai sword at their apartment.   Brunner was charged in Fresno with assault, but before the case was resolved, he returned to Los Angeles where he hung around with some of his friends from the neighborhood.

It was in LA during that spring of 1998 that Brunner's life took an even stranger twist.   While the sword charges dangled over his head, so to speak, that Brunner and another assailant were accused of threatening to kill LACC Coach Mike Miller.  Brunner was charged with various felonies (he allegedly also robbed Miller while pointing a gun at his chest, taking a large amount of cash), and was incarcerated for 5 months in the LA County Jail while awaiting trial.  Eventually the charges were dropped when several witness could not postively identify him as the assailant.  The samurai charges were also disposed of without further incarceration, but Brunner's life continued to take strange twists and turns.   He bounced around between Santa Monica City College and the streets and eventually wound up at the College of Southern Idaho last fall.  But even that didn't last and he never completed the season or the academic year at CSI.  Sports Illustrated did a huge feature on him and how he was all washed up.   [Interestingly, CSI's own basketball website has a bio of coach Zeck, which has the following quote in a section entitled "What the Players are saying about Coach Zeck":  “Coach Zeck has really helped change my life. He has taught me the value of hard work. I used to take life for granted, but after spending a couple of months with Coach, I understand how important every day is. I still have a lot to learn, but coach Zeck has already taught me the thing I needed most - how to be a man.” - CSI sophomore Kenny Brunner. ]

Brunner was then recruited by a number of schools, each of which turned him down.  San Diego State took a pass.  According to Andy Katz, UCLA also thought about it briefly and then passed.  USC took a pass both before and after the stint at CSI.  But Jim Harrick at Georgia had known Kenny for many years, apparently since Brunner was an elementary school student and Harrick was fresh out of Inglewood's Morningside HS himself and on his way to Pepperdine.  And when Harrick, after a circuitous and edgy rout himself wound up at Georgia, it seemed as if the two were meant for each other, and Georgia started to recruit Kenny hard.  Last week, Brunner was on his way to enroll at Georgia, when University President Michael Adams said "No."  So last Wednesday, Brunner was denied admission to Georgia, and the sad part is that he may now have nowhere to go, and his NCAA clock may be just about up, at least in any meaningful or real way.

Here's an excerpt from portions of Andy Katz' article at ESPN which pretty much says it all:

Georgia was the last stop for Brunner, until Georgia president Michael Adams denied Brunner's admission Wednesday for the first semester. The move, which has left open the possibility for Brunner's admission for the second semester, crushed Brunner's and Georgia coach Jim Harrick's original plan of giving him a new life in college basketball.

San Diego State and USC were interested but couldn't touch him. UCLA thought about it, but couldn't extend an invitation, either. Georgia was the only school willing to push the issue, mainly because Harrick knew Brunner since he was in elementary school. 

Brunner was a local point guard phenom and was a finalist for a Bruins' scholarship. Harrick offered it to Baron Davis instead and Brunner went to Fresno State before getting out of a national letter of intent and signing with Georgetown following the Bulldogs' famed segment on 60 Minutes.

But Brunner left Georgetown midway through the season while leading the Hoyas and the Big East in assists. That's when his trouble started, getting into two incidents over the next six months (two assaults that were later dismissed, even though he sat in a L.A. city jail during the summer of '98). 

He spent a month at Fresno State before an incident bounced him from even being a redshirt transfer. He was out of basketball for a year before resurfacing last year in Twin Falls, Idaho.

"The poor kid's reputation has killed him," said CSI coach Derek Zeck. "That's why a lot of people wouldn't touch him. (Georgia) was his only option in Division I. Deep down he wanted to get to that level again. His ego was really hurt by other players that he knew weren't as good as him getting recruited at high levels."

Brunner drove across country from his home in Compton, Calif., to Athens, Ga. He was ready for the start of the fall semester, arriving last Friday, a day after school had begun. But Tuesday was the last day for late enrollment and Brunner's official transcripts hadn't arrived yet.

Adams wasn't going to push Brunner into the semester without ensuring he was eligible. He already authorized an investigation into Brunner's record when his recruitment was brought to his attention.

But a source close to the situation told ESPN.com that Adams was swayed to deny Brunner's admission when he read the attention Brunner's recruitment was receiving in the local media.

Harrick is hoping Brunner stays in Athens and tries to get on the good side of the president and faculty. If he wants to attend Georgia, he obviously has to be academically eligible once his transcripts arrive, and then has to meet with a three-person faculty committee. Harrick said Brunner had already rented an apartment in Athens. Brunner and Harrick met Thursday and did discuss at least one Division II school in the Midwest.

"There's a small ray of hope that he can still come here," Harrick said. "I hope he'll try that. I want to help him."

Harrick is giving Brunner the weekend to think over his plans but his options are limited. Brunner's eligibility clock is ticking. A player has five years to play four, and Brunner began his college career in the fall of 1997. Brunner didn't play in 1998-99 and was at CSI in '99-00. That means he doesn't have a redshirt year remaining and has only the 2000-01 and '01-02 seasons to complete his eligibility.

Brunner would have stepped in and started at the point. Georgia's status in the SEC would have changed dramatically with his arrival. Brunner's toughness and savvy ability to run a team would have pushed SEC points Brett Nelson (Florida) and Tony Harris (Tennessee). His stocky physique and physical positioning make him a punishing defender on the ball.

Without his leadership, the Bulldogs will lean on freshman Rashad Wright. When Wright's not in the game, 6-foot wing D.A. Layne may have to play some point. Harrick said Layne is eligible after declaring for the draft last spring and spending time trying to work on making an NBA roster. Layne withdrew his name for consideration, but had to work to be eligible this summer.

Joining Layne on the wing will be 6-4 sophomore Ezra Williams, who was ineligible last year, and 6-7 true freshman Chris Daniels. Returning starting senior forwards Anthony Evans and Shon Coleman will be in the frontcourt with 7-foot senior Robb Dryden rotating off the bench.

The earliest Brunner would be available would be after Dec. 15 when the Georgia fall semester ends.

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