Anyone that follows college basketball even moderately closely can tell you the key words that you will find in every story that breaks about the recruitment of an elite level high schooler — agents, runners, AAU coaches, limitless “funding”, shoe companies.
We saw it with OJ Mayo and Ronald Guillory. We saw it with Josh Nochimson and Nate Miles. It may be a different sport, but we saw it with Josh Luchs as well.
In theory, we all know how it works. People funded by an agency form relationships with the coaches of top AAU programs and their best players, using a limitless supply of cash and gifts to entice and impress the players, the ultimate goal being the commission the agency makes off of those six-year contracts and million dollar endorsement.
But in practice, very few outside observers have a chance to gain a window into the specifics of the process. And that is what makes this story from the Washington Post so interesting. Michael Beasley is currently locked in a legal battle with his former agent Joel Bell and his old AAU coach Curtis Malone. Bell filed a lawsuit against Beasley claiming that the basketball star illegally fired him prior to signing an endorsement deal with Adidas. Beasley countersued Bell and filed a third-party claim against Malone claiming, among other things, that “Bell bankrolled Malone’s nationally recognized DC Assault summer basketball program and that in return Malone felt obliged to steer Beasley … to Bell for professional representation.”
The money blockquote:
Beasley alleges in the suit that Malone “conspired with Bell to drive Beasley to him as a client” and that Bell “improperly subsidized Malone’s DC Assault program, and paid money to Malone ‘on the side’ or ‘under the table,’ in exchange for” Malone advising players such as Beasley to sign with Bell.
One of Beasley’s first requests of Bell, the suit says, was for the agent to quickly secure Beasley a multimillion dollar endorsement contract. Beasley says in the suit that he wanted a contract with Nike, the long-standing leader in the multibillion dollar shoe and sports apparel industry the past 30 years.
But Beasley’s suit claims that Bell “failed to pursue negotiations with Nike based on pecuniary interests that would result from Adidas to [Bell] and Malone.”
Beasley’s suit also alleges a string of illegal benefits provided to him by Bell and Malone. Beasley’s mother, Fatima Smith, received $2,500 for legal bills after she was arrested for driving with a suspended license. When Beasley enrolled at Kansas State, his mother moved with him and not only had her moving expenses paid for, she had her rent taken care of. She also had her car payments paid for. There’s more, and I strongly encourage you to read the article from Steve Yanda and Eric Prisbell.
But frankly, none of this should surprise you. And, for our intents and purposes as college hoops fans, its virtually irrelevant. Kansas State probably won’t be getting into trouble for this. If they do, then we’ll see that 2007-2008 season go out the window. Whoop-dee-do. Dalonte Hill — another former AAU coach with the DC Assault that was quoted in the Washington Post’s piece — may end up in some trouble at Maryland, but its unclear just how much. The report may end up affecting the pipeline he had coming out of DC more than anything.
What we get here is a peak behind the scenes, a open-door look into exactly what the typical relationship is between these elite players and the agents/runners/AAU coaches/shoe companies they are associated with. And, as you might expect, the reason we get that view is a fight over money. Bell invested his money with Malone and believed it was his time to profit off of the (business) relationship he had cultivated with Beasley. The player had other ideas. Bell filed a lawsuit because he was pissed he didn’t get paid. Beasley fired back because he doesn’t want to pay.
And here we are. Throw in Dave Telep’s piece from Tuesday titled the Guide to Dirty Recruiting, and we may never get a clearer picture of just how the finances and the politics of grassroots basketball works.