If the UCSB women’s basketball team hopes to capture its sixth straight Big West Title at the end of the 2001-02 campaign, it will have to do it without the services of freshman point guard Syretta Coleman.

UCSB Head Coach Mark French announced Friday that Coleman has been declared academically ineligible for the upcoming season and that she has been dismissed from the team.

“I’m sad,” French said of the outcome. “We all had such high expectations for [Coleman] both on and off the court. It just seems like nothing went right for her.”

Coleman’s dismissal brought an abrupt end to a career that never really got started. Coleman came to Santa Barbara in Fall 2000 as one of the top recruits in the nation after starring at Chandler (Ariz.) High School, where she was named the Arizona State Player of the Year after her senior season.

But things quickly soured for Coleman. Before her Gaucho career began she was arrested for shoplifting and suspended from the team. After pleading no contest to petty theft charges, Coleman was sentenced to probation and community service and then finally reinstated by UCSB Athletics Director Gary Cunningham.

However, Coleman’s return to the team did not go as planned. The 5’9″ guard played in only two games before sitting out the rest of the season for medical reasons. And last year Coleman did not pass enough units to remain academically eligible, according to NCAA and UCSB standards, leading to her dismissal.

“I’m disappointed with [Coleman] because I feel that [French]and the team didn’t give up on her,” Taylor said. “We tried to get her back on the team, but she didn’t do her job.”

Despite losing Coleman, UCSB should remain the team to beat in the Big West. All but three players from last season’s squad are returning, and the Gauchos have added five blue-chip recruits to the team.

“This year’s team has more players and more depth,” Taylor said. “Even though they’re freshmen, they’re very talented. So I feel that we can go a lot further than the first round [of the NCAA Tournament].”