VERNON, Conn. (AP) — Former Connecticut forward Jamal Coombs-McDaniel says his recent arrest on drug charges had nothing to do with his decision to transfer from the national champions.
"The whole thing was over playing time," Coombs-McDaniel said Thursday outside of Rockville Superior Court, where he appeared on two misdemeanor marijuana charges. "Being a junior, I just want to play 30-plus minutes wherever I'm going to go, and be one of the vocal guys, one of the vocal leaders on the team. I couldn't do that at UConn."
The 6-foot-7 forward from Boston's Dorchester neighborhood said the decision to leave UConn was made before he was arrested April 21 on campus and charged with possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Police say Coombs-McDaniel and two friends were found with 5.6 grams of marijuana, a marijuana grinder and a package of cigars used to smoke marijuana. All three appeared before Superior Court Judge Laura F. Baldini on Thursday and applied for admission into the state's drug education program.
If he is accepted and successfully completes drug education classes and community service, Coombs-McDaniel's criminal record would be wiped clean. He is due back in court on June 15.
"It's a silly mistake by my part," he said. "It's unfortunate, and if I could take it back, I would. I want to thank the UConn fans for being there for me for two years and being great supporters."
Coombs-McDaniel said he will attend summer school at UConn before transferring to either Hofstra, UC Irvine, Miami or Missouri. He plans visit all four schools in the next several weeks, but so far has made just one unofficial visit — to Hofstra.
Coombs-McDaniel played in all 41 of UConn's games during its national championship season. He averaged 5.6 points and 2.7 rebounds. He was a favorite with the UConn student section, which broke into a chorus of "Coooombs" when he scored. He had a three-game stretch in February during which he averaged over 21 points per game, but was never a consistent threat off the bench after that.
"It was hard enough, but overall we won the national championship, and that's all you play for," he said. "So at the end of the day it was mission accomplished. But personally, I just want to go somewhere else and do better things and bigger."
He did not participate in the team's victory parade in Hartford or its visit this week to the White House, but said he has few regrets.
"I just wanted to stay away a little bit, let things cool, let the smoke clear," he said. "I'll be back up there June 1st for summer school and I'll see the guys and all them guys are my brothers and none of that will ever change."
He underwent surgery on April 7 to repair ligament damage in his left knee, but expects to be ready to play again this summer.
UConn coach Jim Calhoun issued a statement last month when Coombs-McDaniel announced he was leaving the team wishing him well.
"He was a very important part of our national championship this season and I know is capable of great success in the future," Calhoun said.