Billy Edelin’s long ordeal isn’t over yet

PITTSBURGH — The Billy Edelin saga is over. That’s what they told you.

It ended Saturday against Pittsburgh, when the point guard ripped off his warm-ups and jogged into a regular-season college basketball game for the first time. You were told that, when Edelin checked into the game, he left two accusations of sexual assault, a dismantled reputation and 16 months of turmoil on the bench for good.

‘The end has finally come,’ Edelin told you.

‘It’s good to put it all in the past,’ teammate Hakim Warrick echoed.

‘Finally, it’s done,’ captain Kueth Duany said.

But Saturday afternoon, the man sitting in Section 24 of the Petersen Events Center learned different. Seeing his son play for the first time in two basketball seasons, William Edelin felt pangs of apprehension where there should have been unadulterated relief, patches of sadness where he expected pure joy.

His realization? Whatever Edelin lost sitting out 48 games as a result of sexual-assault allegations and participation in an unsanctioned recreational league won’t come back with a few minutes of playing time. It might not come back at all.

Sitting next to his wife, Vera, and 6-year-old daughter, Mariah, William watched his son — who likely would have started last year if not for the suspension — play seven minutes and score two points. He watched as Pittsburgh fans held up signs reminding his son that ‘NO MEANS NO’ and listened to them chant the same saying.

He found out his son still has a long road ahead.

‘It’s a whole new battle now,’ William Edelin said. ‘He’s back playing, so that’s a start. That’s the end of a chapter, but not the end of the book. Things are still very different than they could have been. Some things are still lacking.’

Like playing time.

In September 2001, it seemed Edelin would start at point guard as a true freshman. In practices, teammates suggested Edelin had the upper hand over then-sophomore James Thues — the only other scholarship point guard on SU’s roster.

‘I was all set to start,’ Edelin said last year. ‘It was going to be my show. I thought I’d come in and run the team smoothly.’

But on Sept. 21, 2001, the Syracuse University Judicial Board gave Edelin an indefinite suspension for his role in an alleged sexual assault. One Syracuse freshman claimed Edelin had raped her. Another claimed Edelin had sexually harassed her. Court charges were dropped because of insufficient evidence, and Edelin still disputes the allegations.

After a lengthy appeal process, Edelin left school Oct. 19. He spent his year living in Syracuse and fulfilling a number of obligations mandated for readmittance. He re-enrolled in June and entered preseason practice expecting, once again, to start.

‘Finally, it’s my chance,’ Edelin said in August. ‘A year later, I’m coming into the same situation. I’ve got a good shot to start. It’s going to be amazing to be back.’

He wouldn’t be back for another six months. On Nov. 14 — the same day as Syracuse’s season opener — the NCAA suspended Edelin for playing 12 rec-league games during his suspension. It would be a one-for-one penalty, meaning Edelin would sit one college game for each rec game he played.

Another mistake. Another lost chance to start or even play.

‘He could have very easily already started 49 college games,’ William said. ‘That’s almost hard to think about. He’d be contributing so much already. He would have already made a name for himself on the court.’

Instead, Edelin’s known for the mistakes that keep him off the court. His name is synonymous with bad decisions and bad breaks, not good decisions and fast breaks.

‘He’s not known for his basketball on the college level yet,’ said Lynn Poe, Edelin’s godmother who traveled to the Pittsburgh game. ‘He’ll show what he’s about. He’ll change that. But right now, it’s almost like he’s more of a spectacle than a basketball player.’

Never was that more clear than Saturday. Edelin’s mere presence caused a ruckus, sparking chants, signs and shouts that condemned him. But once on the court, Edelin didn’t cause anything. He shot once, grabbed a rebound and threw a pass away. He played the bulk of his minutes during a nondescript stretch midway through the first half. He played two more at the end, with the game already out of hand.

‘You can’t put anybody who hasn’t played in a year and a half in a game and expect him to turn the game around,’ head coach Jim Boeheim said after the Pittsburgh game. ‘You’re not bringing back Donovan McNabb, you’re bringing back a kid who has never played college basketball.’

Chances are Edelin will play a similar role tonight at 7 when Syracuse hosts Seton Hall. When he walks on the Carrier Dome court for the first time, the crowd will likely roar with approval.

Against a weaker team than No. 2 Pittsburgh, Edelin may play more. But freshman Gerry McNamara will start at point guard as he has all year. Edelin merely hopes to make an impact and feel comfortable coming off the bench.

‘He’d like to play more minutes,’ William said. ‘He called me after the Pittsburgh game a little upset he didn’t play more. But I told him his time would come.

‘I try to look at the big picture. One game is not going to make or break his career at Syracuse. But it still isn’t easy on any of us.’

Watching his son play for the first time since high school, William tried to block out the chants, ignore the signs and focus on basketball. When the game was over, he turned to a friend and said: ‘Well, that wasn’t much, but it’s something to build on. We’re not at the end quite yet.’

And despite what you’ve heard, we won’t be for a while.

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