Former UCLA center Darrell Allums heard the kind of testimonials Friday that he once must have dreamed would come at the end of a long and successful basketball career, and not just before he was sent to prison.
Allums, who played on a team that finished second in the 1980 NCAA basketball championships, listened intently Friday as a stream of supporters sang his praises on the witness stand in Torrance Superior Court.
First UCLA basketball Coach Jim Harrick, an assistant coach in Allums' days on campus, called the former Bruin center "a young man prepared to contribute to society." Then former teammate and current UCLA assistant coach Brad Holland described the 6-foot, 9-inch Allums as a player who always rose to the occasion in big games. Finally, there were emotional comments from his mother, who called Allums a "loving and giving person."
Tributes aside, Judge William R. Hollingsworth sentenced Allums to nine years in state prison for robbing eight Domino's Pizza deliverymen. He faces two additional years in prison if he is convicted of possession of cocaine when he returns to court for a separate trial June 22.
Allums, 30, has served nearly two years in Los Angeles County Jail since his arrest June 22, 1987. If he continues to earn credits for good behavior and prison work, he could be released from state prison in three years.
Hollingsworth said he sympathized with Allums--who admitted committing the robberies to pay for a runaway cocaine habit--but that he was bound by state law to punish the former player for the string of armed robberies in 1987.
The judge compared Allums to former University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias, who died of a cocaine overdose. "I am convinced that, but for drugs, Mr. Allums never would have been here," Hollingsworth said.
Allums appeared glum, looking down at his feet, as the judge denied his lawyer's attempts to send him to a drug rehabilitation center.
Moments before, Allums had admitted for the first time that he committed the robberies. "It was a situation where I had no control over it," Allums said. "I never intended to hurt anyone. It was just a means to get money to get drugs. . . . I was out of control."
Authorities said that 14 times in April and June of 1987, Allums called the pizza chain's outlets, usually in the South Bay, and ordered small pizzas and six-packs of soda. But when deliverymen visited the addresses they found no one at home and were confronted instead by Allums, who usually wielded a screwdriver, Deputy Dist. Atty. Julie Sulman said. Allums usually took the sodas and cash, ranging from $20 to more than $100, and ran off, leaving the pizzas behind.
A jury convicted Allums in March of committing eight of the robberies, and the remaining six charges were dropped when that same jury could not reach a verdict.
Allums said in an 11-page handwritten letter to the judge that he began experimenting with drugs in high school but that his downfall began after two short stints in professional basketball--the first with the Dallas Mavericks and the second with a pro team in the Philippines.
"I was introduced to free-base cocaine," Allums wrote. "That was the worst mistake I ever made in my life. . . . It would later be my destruction."
Injury Ended Career
Allums said he dropped drugs for a time when he took a job with a team in Switzerland. But a knee injury ended his basketball career and he returned to the United States, plunging deeper into cocaine addiction, he said.