Basketball Player Sues to Get Scholarship Back

May 8, 2004

A former student-athlete on the University of Southern Mississippi basketball team has sued the university in Forrest County Chancery Court for reneging on a verbal promise to continue his scholarship after he voluntarily left the team.
Ben Lambert was a 6-foot-9 senior on the basketball team when he allegedly went to then-head-coach James Green midway through the 2002-2003 season to tell the coach he was leaving the team for personal reasons. Lambert wrote in the complaint that he was subjected to “humiliation and degradation meted out by the coaching staff,” while playing for Coach Green.
Attorney John R. Reeves of Jackson, Miss., who is representing Lambert, sent a letter to the school last fall that described some of the alleged behavior of the staff:
“We especially find offensive and unacceptable that an African American coach Jeffrey Norwood allegedly called Mr. Lambert a “Ni**er” so loud during their conversation on the cell phone that his wife standing next to him heard the comment. This statement and other actions lead to an altercation between Coach Norwood and Mr. Lambert. Mr. Lambert states that he and a former player Carey Rigsby were instructed by Coach Green during a practice to lay on the floor and spread their legs real wide and asked “how does it feel to be f**ked?” Mr. Lambert also gives an example of Coach Green slapping former player Carey Rigsby during half time of the Tulane game in New Orleans during the 2001-02 season.”
Lambert also claimed that Green allegedly promised him that his education would continue to be paid for by the university. Green was ultimately ousted in favor of former Iowa State University basketball coach Larry Eustachy. Lambert, however, was told the summer after his departure from the team that his education would no longer be paid for.
He is seeking an injection to reinstate his scholarship as well as an unspecified amount of monetary relief for damages.
“We’ve been attempting to settle this since last September with the university,” Reeves told the Hattiesburg American. “We would certainly prefer to settle it without further litigation.”


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