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Invalidated Exam Stuns Bruin Recruit : College basketball: Dominguez High's Tommy Prince says he didn't cheat when passing SAT on the fifth attempt.

August 18, 1995|DAVID ROSENZWEIG and ELLIOTT ALMOND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Diane Prince knew something was amiss when she eased her car into the driveway of her Compton home Tuesday and spotted her son, Tommy, sitting on the fence, looking as glum as she had seen him in all of his 17 years.

"I just knew something was wrong," she recalled.

She started joking with him, asking her son if he was bored.

He told her, "Mom, I didn't pass the test."

The test was the Scholastic Assessment Test, Prince's ticket to UCLA and what was to have been a promising career with Coach Jim Harrick's national champion basketball team.

"The kid's heart was set on UCLA," the mother said Thursday, a day after the school announced Prince was not eligible to attend because of a discrepancy on his SAT scores. "His bags were packed. He was already there. And then this devastating news. It's just not fair."

Prince was one of the area's best basketball players last season, leading Compton Dominguez High to the state final. As a highly sought recruit, he signed a national letter of intent to attend UCLA last May after meeting the NCAA minimum on his college entrance exam. He had failed to meet the standard four previous times, Diane Prince said.

Although vague on details, the family said Prince met the minimum standard on his fifth try by scoring in the low 900s. Because of statistical recalibration by the testing agency, the NCAA qualifying standard jumped from 700 to 820 in March. Recently, however, UCLA coaches asked Prince to retake the test.

"Nobody said he cheated or anything like that," Diane Prince said. "He kept asking why, but no one had a good answer."

Prince reluctantly retook the test last Friday at Compton College, his mother said. He called New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service, which administers the test, to get the results early this week.

"They told him if he had answered just one more question right he would have been OK," Diane Prince said.

Russell Otis, Prince's high school coach, was huddled with the family Thursday night trying to figure out what happened and what to do. He said Prince did not want to respond to a reporter's inquiry other than to say he did not cheat on the test.

"It is sad to have happened this way," Otis said. "He knows what he did. He took that test. It's an obstacle in his life. He knows he has to get on with it."

But Prince's father, Tommy Sr., was clearly upset.

"When UCLA was trying to recruit Tommy, there wasn't one day we didn't hear from them," he said. "When it surfaced there was a problem, they didn't stand behind him."

Prince could attend a junior college for two years and after earning an associate's degree transfer to a Division I school or he can attend another Division I school that accepts Proposition 48 candidates--incoming freshmen who have failed to meet all the academic requirements to be eligible.

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