Ex-MSU guard Travis Walton disputes ESPN report

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Former Michigan State basketball player Travis Walton is denying parts of a recent ESPN report that claims he was fired as a student assistant with the basketball team after being accused of sexual assault, just weeks after facing a charge of misdemeanor assault and battery.

The report said Walton was allowed to continue coaching in 2010 after an incident at an East Lansing bar when he was accused of hitting a woman and charged with assault and battery. Several weeks later, the report says a woman and her parents went to the athletic department accusing Walton and two players of sexual assault.

In a statement first released to 97.1 FM’s “The Valenti Show” on Tuesday, Walton said he was not fired by Michigan State, that he did not physically assault a woman and that any relations he had with the woman who accused him of sexual assault was consensual.

“I stand by these facts and I will defend myself to the extent the law allows,” Walton said. “I apologize for the negative attention this has brought my Spartan family, the Clippers organization and my family and friends.”

On Friday, Walton was placed on administrative leave by the Los Angeles Clippers. He had been an assistant coach for the franchise’s G-League affiliate, the Agua Caliente Clippers.

According to court records, Walton was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery after an incident on Feb. 23, 2010, when he was a student assistant. He had finished his playing career the previous season after three straight years as Michigan State’s team captain. The case was dismissed on April 21 and Walton pleaded to a lesser charge of littering in public.

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According to ESPN, Walton struck Ashley Thompson in the face and that medical records show she was diagnosed with a concussion, bruises and scrapes.

In his statement, Walton said the woman threw a drink at him “without notice or provocation. … I subsequently left the establishment. Two written statements from independent, objective witnesses were given to the City Attorney, and support my innocence. Ultimately, the determination to resolve the case was based on the merits of the investigation.”

Walton continued to coach with the team while that case was pending. After the season ended with a loss in the Final Four, ESPN reported the alleged sexual assault took place.

“I have never been charged with sexual assault and, to my knowledge, the alleged sexual assault was never reported to Michigan State University or the police,” Walton said. “My encounters with this woman were more than just one single occasion, and my actions with her were always consensual.”

The ESPN report said that Walton was fired from his position with the team after the alleged sexual assault, something Walton disputes.

“I was never hired or fired by Michigan State University,” Walton said. “In January of 2010, I was enrolled at Michigan State University, taking the necessary classes to complete my degree. Upon graduation, I returned to Europe to continue my basketball career.”

After Sunday’s game at Maryland, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was asked why Walton left the program.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know why he left,” Izzo said. “I know he went to Europe to play.”

Walton played with the Detroit Pistons summer league team in 2009 before leaving to play in Switzerland in the fall. He returned to Michigan State in December and began working with the team as an assistant while practicing with the scout team. He returned to Europe and played in Germany in 2010-11 before playing the NBA’s D-League in 2011-12.

From 2014-17 he was an assistant coach with the Idaho Stampede and Salt Lake City Stars of the D-League before joining the staff this season with the Clippers.

Walton’s publicist, Justin Near of Near Perfect Media, declined a request by The Detroit News for an interview with Walton.