Winthrop basketball players Reggie Middleton and Gideon Gamble were back on the court Monday afternoon, and when practice finished, they spoke to reporters for the first time since their arrests.
And when asked for their version of the events that led to their arrests on misdemeanor disorderly conduct-fighting charges last Friday morning, they answered with the exact same words.
"I wish I could," Gamble said, eyes straight ahead.
"I wish I could," Middleton said directly, nodding quietly.
Both said they have been ordered by university officials to not comment on the particulars of the fight at the McDonald's across from campus at 2:45 a.m. Friday, hours before they were scheduled for a 6 a.m. practice. According to the Rock Hill Police Department, both players were Tased before being subdued by officers, and both had been drinking.
"There will be a time for that, but that time's not now," Middleton said with a shrug, wincing more from the large bag of ice on his right thigh than any indication of shame.
The first result of their actions is the midnight curfew instituted by coach Randy Peele Sunday, which applied to the entire team. Peele has also tweaked the practice schedule, changing this afternoon's planned 3:45 p.m. session to 6 a.m. He had already scheduled the last two Friday practices of the month for 6 a.m., a nod to the traditional Thursday night out that many students enjoy.
Peele didn't talk after Monday's practice, but that's not rare these days around the Winthrop Coliseum. The entire athletic department has been instructed to refer all questions to the department of university relations, even the sports information department, which ordinarily handles interviews with coaches and athletes.
But while the players couldn't give their version of their story -- which many around the program say privately will ultimately reflect well on them -- they did talk about the aftermath.
Both Middleton and Gamble acknowledged the curfew, knowing they were the source for the team's mandated bed-checks.
Asked if he agreed with the move, Gamble nodded.
"For the time being, yes sir," the junior guard-forward said. "We're grown men and we have to be accountable for our actions. I think everybody knows that."
"I really don't have a problem with it," Middleton added. "I think everybody knows why it happened."
Neither player has been suspended at this point, with athletic director Tom Hickman saying Monday they were still discussing options.
But for now, the Eagles know they have some short nights and early mornings ahead of them because of the incident.
Senior center George Valentine was in the trainers room when Peele announced the curfew Sunday, and didn't think it was a very big deal either. But as one of the veteran players on the team, he knows the incident adds to a recent burden of bad news. The recent arrests came six months after former Eagles players Robbie Dreher and Julius Francis were arrested and charged with two counts each of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree after an incident reported by a 19-year-old former female student. Both players have since left the program.
"Everybody around here cares what people in the community think about us," Valentine said. "But at the end of the day, the guys in this locker room know that we are a team -- we are a family.
"We know who the group of people are that are going to stick by us."