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Cal State Northridge's Bobby Braswell feels highs and lows

Coach is trying to prepare the team for an NCAA tournament game against Memphis while dealing with his son's court appearance on felony theft and burglary charges.

March 17, 2009|Robyn Norwood

On Sunday afternoon, Cal State Northridge men's basketball Coach Bobby Braswell cheered with his players when the Matadors' NCAA tournament date with Memphis was announced on television as a CBS camera filmed their celebration.

Monday morning, he stood outside San Fernando Courthouse with his wife and oldest son, waiting in a line 100 deep to go through security before a hearing to determine whether his son Jeffrey, 22, should stand trial on felony theft and burglary charges that could send him to prison for up to five years.

Every other NCAA tournament coach in the country was making plans for what to do on the court. Braswell was in court.

He arrived before 8:30 a.m. and didn't leave for good until 4:30 p.m., after a draining day of delays and troubling testimony in a hearing scheduled to conclude this morning.

By a little after 5 p.m., he was back on campus, preparing for a 5:30 practice.

"We're going to go on. We're going to go on," Braswell said during a delay at the courthouse. "We obviously have to manage the responsibility I have to the institution and the responsibility I have to my son."

On campus, assistants Louis Wilson, Danny Sprinkle and James Blake reviewed film and planned the itinerary for the team's 7 a.m. departure today for Kansas City, Mo., where the Matadors face Memphis on Thursday.

In court, Braswell and his wife Penny listened to detailed testimony about the alleged thefts from the Best Buy store in Porter Ranch where their son was an employee. The prosecution alleges Jeffrey Braswell invited the defendants to the store on New Year's Day and used another employee's security code to allow them to check out more than $6,600 in merchandise without paying, sometimes adding additional items to their bags.

Nor is it only Braswell's son who is involved. Deon Tresvant, the Matadors' leading scorer until his arrest in early January, also is charged in the case and could face up to 44 months in prison, as could actor Phannuel Gbewonyo, 28. A fourth defendant, Matadors guard Dallas Rutherford, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to probation and community service.

The airwaves are filled with talk of March Madness, but inside the courtroom, there was no jocularity or mention of Northridge's success, and Judge Sanjay T. Kumar mispronounced Tresvant's name.

The prosecution outlined a case built on testimony from Best Buy employees and the alleged admissions Braswell, Tresvant and Gbewonyo made to Los Angeles Police Department detectives about merchandise that was not paid for, including two laptop computers and an assortment of video game consoles, games and movies.

Much of the merchandise was returned to the store by the elder Braswell after Rutherford helped collect it from the other defendants and turned it into the coach, the prosecution said. The elder Braswell, who also made a payment of $691 as part of the restitution, could be called as a witness if the case goes to trial, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Stodel said.

LAPD detective John Macchiarella testified that Gbewonyo and Tresvant also described leaving the store with merchandise they had not paid for before New Year's Day. Another player who is not charged in the case, reserve forward Vincent Cordell, returned a pair of headphones he had not paid for, Macchiarella said. He said outside of court there was not sufficient evidence to bring charges in any incidents before Jan. 1.

Two days from now, the Matadors will have their moment. Tresvant and the younger Braswell will watch on television.

"It's very devastating," Tresvant said. "I'd love to be with my team, but at this point, I can't.

"The guys deserve it. At the same time, I wish I was out there."

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robynnorwood@verizon.net

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