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Lawyers for Michael Avennati filed a court motion on Wednesday alleging that Nike approved under-the-table payments to Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford while they were still in high school.
The alleged offers, which were for $35,000 to Zion and $20,000 to Langford, were found in “text messages, emails and other documents fro 2016-17” and prove “Nike executives had arranged for and concealed payments, often in cash, to amateur basketball players and their families and ‘handlers,'” the motion, which was filed in U.S. District Court in New York, alleged.
Specifically, the motion alleges that:
- EYBL manager Jamal James texted EYBL director Carlton DeBose and Nike’s recruiting coordinator John Stovall asking if they would be “willing to do … whatever may be needed for the Zion/Romeo situations as well as the money we’re now going to do for the [redacted because he is still a minor] kid in Michigan.” Stovall responded “Langford – 20 Zion – 35 [unnamed minor] – 15”. Stovall added that it was a bad idea for the offer to be put into print.
- DeBose said in a text message with an unnamed Kentucky assistach coach that the shoe company was “funneling payments to high school players through at least 10 different EYBL coaches.”
- An EYBL coach told Nike executives he was concerned about the money being paid to players and their families because it won’t end well for Nike and innocent coaches “will be deemed guilty by association.”
- DeBose told Nico Harrison, Nike’s VP of North America basketball operations, that he’s “willing to bet that 38 of the 40 teams in the EYBL had to pay a moderate to considerable ransom to families just to play in the EYBL.” He also said the arrangements are “being viewed as a contract” by the players and their families.
- Another Nike executive, Rachel Baker, allegedly said she was worried about carrying cash through an airport.
All the quotes listed above are from the motion itself. It refers to emails and text messages, but they are not attached. The motion can be read in its entirety here.
The motion does not make clear whether or not the money was actually delivered. Both Zion and Langford played their final season of AAU basketball on the Adidas circuit. Langford’s father was the coach of the AAU program that his son played for.
“Nike will not respond to the allegations of an individual facing federal charges of fraud and extortion,” Nike said in a statement. “Nike will continue its cooperation with the government’s investigation into grassroots basketball and the related extortion case.”
Avenatti was arrested in March and charged with attempting to extort more than $20 million from Nike by threatening to expose the way that the shoe company and its grassroots basketball league, the EYBL, funnel money to the elite high school players and their families. He threatened to hold a press conference at the start of the NCAA tournament announcing these allegations of misconduct.
Adding to the drama is the fact that Avennati represented Gary Franklin, who was the coach of the California Supreme at one point in time. Deandre Ayton, Bol Bol, Aaron Holiday, De’Anthony Melton, Solomon Hill and Brandon McCoy were among the players that spent time on his roster. The motion to dismiss also contains allegations that Franklin was directed by DeBose to make payments to people associated with Ayton, Bol and McCoy, and that he submitted false invoices to Nike to disguise the payments as expenses for the 501(c3) he operated.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas has dismissed forward Gabe Osabuohien from the men’s basketball program.
Coach Eric Musselman announced the move Thursday without disclosing the reason.
“We have set a level of expectations for our student-athletes on and off the court,” Musselman said. “After discussions with Gabe, it was decided that it would be best to part ways. We thank him for his time at Arkansas and wish him well.”
The 6-foot-8 Osabuohien was born in Toronto but played at Little Rock’s Southwest Christian Academy. He played in 54 games with eight starts in two seasons with Arkansas. He scored 128 points (2.4 per game) and had 136 rebounds (2.5).
HARTFORD, Conn. — The arbitrator in the dispute between UConn and Kevin Ollie has ruled that the former basketball coach is protected by a union contract when it comes to the standard the school must meet in proving his firing was justified.
The collective bargaining agreement between the school and the American Association of University Professors, of which Ollie is a member, requires a showing of serious misconduct in order to fire an employee for “just cause” and also affords Ollie other union protections
UConn had argued that Ollie’s personal contract superseded the union deal, allowing it to fire him in March 2018 for a broader range of offenses.
Arbitrator Marcia Greenbaum, in a decision filed on July 31, found that neither Ollie nor the union waived his union protections when signing his latest contract.
The arbitrator plans hearings to determine whether UConn fired Ollie for just cause, or if he is owed more than $10 million that was left on his contract, which was through June 30, 2021.
“Serious misconduct is the standard that now has to be proved by the university,” said Michael Bailey, executive director of UConn’s chapter of the AAUP. “I think, as the arbitrator said in her discussion, that is a heavy burden to be placed on the university.”
The school acknowledged Tuesday that the ruling will make proving its case more difficult.
“Nonetheless, UConn remains confident it can prevail in this matter, even against the higher standard, especially in light of the recent NCAA ruling,” said Stephanie Reitz, the school’s spokeswoman.
The NCAA Committee on Infractions last month placed the UConn program on two years of probation and sanctioned Ollie individually for numerous violations of NCAA rules during his tenure.
The Committee on Infractions said the violations mainly stemmed from improper pickup games at which student managers kept statistics for coaches, the use of a video coordinator as a coach, which resulted in more than the allowable number of coaches, and free training sessions provided to three players by a trainer who was friends with Ollie.
The NCAA issued a three-year, show-cause order for the former head coach for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance and providing misleading statements to investigators and failing to monitor his staff.
That means that any NCAA member school that might hire Ollie must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless it shows why those restrictions should not apply.
But Ollie’s attorney, Jacques Parenteau, said that does not mean the firing was justified.
“One should not assume that the NCAA’s recent action, which was totally lacking in due process protections, will have any relevance before an impartial arbitrator,” he said.
Bailey said he is hopeful that, in the absence of a settlement, the arbitration process can be concluded by the end of the year.
Oregon added a key piece to their puzzle for the 2019-20 season on Tuesday as N’Faly Dante announced that he will not only be committing to the Ducks but reclassifying so he can enroll at school this fall.
He picked the Ducks over Kentucky.
“I’ve put a lot of thought into it, and I’m excited to tell you that next year I’m going to be attending college and playing basketball at the University of Oregon,” Dante wrote in a letter to his mother, who lives in Mali, that was published on The Players’ Tribune. “Oregon has a program that reflects a lot of the values you taught me when I was growing up. And I hope that someday I get to show you around Eugene. It’s beautiful there!”
Dante is a 6-foot-11 center that ranks as a consensus five-star prospect. At this point in his development, he a rim-protecting rebounder that will do the majority of his damage around the rim, but with Kenny Wooten leaving for the NBA with two years of eligibility remaining, he fills a hole on the Ducks’ roster.
Dante joins C.J. Walker, Chris Duarte and Lok Wur in Oregon’s recruiting, which also includes grad transfers Anthony Mathis and Shakur Juiston. Those newcomers should help Altman offset the losses of Louis King, Bol Bol and Wooten.
The Ducks now looks like the favorite to win the Pac-12.
There is so much that is going to happen between now and the time that next season starts that it almost seems foolish to publish a preseason top 25 today.
But we’re doing it anyway!
A couple of notes: Who is going to head to the NBA is very much in the air right now. There are still a number of freshmen that have yet to announce where they are playing their college ball. The transfer market has barely heated up. For decisions that are up in the air, you’ll see an asterisk next to their name. We’re making predictions on what certain players will do and ranking based off of them.
So with all that said, here is the preseason top 25.
1. MICHIGAN STATE
- WHO’S GONE: Matt McQuaid, Kenny Goins, Nick Ward
- WHO’S BACK: Cassius Winston, Xavier Tillman, Joshua Langford, Aaron Henry, Kyle Ahrens, Gabe Brown, Foster Loyer, Marcus Bingham, Thomas Kithier
- WHO’S COMING IN: Rocket Watts, Malik Hall, Julius Marble
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford, Kyle Ahrens, Aaron Henry, Xavier Tillman
- WHO’S GONE: P.J. Washington, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, Reid Travis
- WHO’S BACK: E.J. Montgomery, Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickly, Nick Richards
- WHO’S COMING IN: Kahlil Whitney, Tyrese Maxey, Keion Brooks, Johnny Juzang, Dontaie Allen, Nate Sestina
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Kahlil Whitney, Keion Brooks, E.J. Montgomery
- WHO’S GONE: Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Marques Bolden
- WHO’S BACK: Tre Jones, Alex O’Connell, Jack White, Javin DeLaurier, Jordan Goldwire, Joey Baker
- WHO’S COMING IN: Vernon Carey, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, Cassius Stanley
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Tre Jones, Alex O’Connell, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, Vernon Carey
- WHO’S GONE: Lagerald Vick, Dedric Lawson, Quintin Grimes, K.J. Lawson, Charlie Moore
- WHO’S BACK: Devon Dotson, Ochai Agbaji, Udoka Azubuike, Marcus Garrett, Silvio De Sousa, Mitch Lightfoot, David McCormack
- WHO’S COMING IN: Isaiah Moss, Jalen Wilson, Tristan Enaruna, Isaac McBride, Christian Braun
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Devon Dotson, Isaiah Moss, Ochai Agbaji, Silvio De Sousa, Udoka Azubuike
- WHO’S GONE: Eric Paschall, Phil Booth, Jahvon Quinerly
- WHO’S BACK: Jermaine Samuels, Cole Swider, Saddiq Bey, Collin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Rountree, Brandon Slater
- WHO’S COMING IN: Bryan Antoine, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Justin Moore, Eric Dixon
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Collin Gillespie, Bryan Antoine, Saddiq Bey, Jermaine Samuels, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
- WHO’S GONE: Christen Cunningham, Khwan Fore, Akoy Agau
- WHO’S BACK: Jordan Nwora, Dwayne Sutton, Ryan McMahon, Steve Enoch, Malik Williams, Darius Perry
- WHO’S COMING IN: Samuell Williamson, Jaelyn Withers, Josh Nickelberry, Fresh Kimble, David Johnson, Aidan Igiehom, Quinn Slazinski
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Fresh Kimble, Samuell Williamson, Dwayne Sutton, Jordan Nwora, Malik Williams
- WHO’S GONE: Bruno Fernando
- WHO’S BACK: Anthony Cowan, Jalen Smith, Serrel Smith Jr., Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Ricky Lindo, Darryl Morsell
- WHO’S COMING IN: Chol Marial, Makhi Mitchell, Makhel Mitchell, Donta Scott
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Anthony Cowan, Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Ricky Lindo, Jalen Smith
- WHO’S GONE: De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, Jack Salt
- WHO’S BACK: Braxton Key, Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff, Kihei Clark
- WHO’S COMING IN: Casey Morsell, Tomas Woldetensae, Kadin Shedrick, Justin McKoy
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Kihei Clark, Casey Morsell, Braxton Key, Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff
9. TEXAS TECH
- WHO’S GONE: Jarrett Culver, Matt Mooney, Tariq Owens, Brandone Francis, Norense Odiase, Khavon Moore
- WHO’S BACK: Chris Beard, Davide Moretti, Kyler Edwards, Deshawn Corprew, Andrei Savrasov
- WHO’S COMING IN: Jahmius Ramsey, Chris Clarke, T.J. Holyfield, Kevin McCullar, Russel Tchewa, Terrence Shannon
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Jahmius Ramsey, Davide Moretti, Deshawn Corprew, T.J. Holyfield, Chris Clarke
- WHO’S GONE: KeVaughn Allen, Jalen Hudson, Kevarrius Hayes, Keith Stone, DeAundre Ballard
- WHO’S BACK: Noah Locke, Andrew Nembhard, Keyontae Johnson, Dontay Bassett, Isaiah Stokes
- WHO’S COMING IN: Kerry Blackshear Jr., Scottie Lewis, Tre Mann, Omar Payne, Jason Jitoboh
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke, Scottie Lewis, Keyontae Johnson, Kerry Blackshear Jr.
- WHO’S GONE: Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke, Josh Perkins, Zach Norvell, Geno Crandall, Jeremy Jones
- WHO’S BACK: Killian Tillie, Filip Petrusev, Corey Kispert
- WHO’S COMING IN: Admon Gilder, Drew Timme, Oumar Ballo, Ryan Woolridge, Brock Ravet, Anton Watson, Martynas Arlauskas, Pavel Zahkarov
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Ryan Woolridge, Admon Gilder, Corey Kispert, Killian Tillie, Filip Petrusev
12. SETON HALL
- WHO’S GONE: Michael Nzei
- WHO’S BACK: Myles Powell, Myles Cale, Quincy McKnight, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Ikey Obiagu
- WHO’S COMING IN: Tyrese Samuel
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Quincy McKnight, Myles Powell, Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Ikey Obiagu
13. NORTH CAROLINA
- WHO’S GONE: Coby White, Nassir Little, Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams, Seventh Woods
- WHO’S BACK: Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks, Brandon Robinson
- WHO’S COMING IN: Cole Anthony, Armando Bacot, Jeremiah Francis, Anthony Harris, Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Cole Anthony, Leaky Black, Brandon Robinson, Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks
14. UTAH STATE
- WHO’S GONE: Quinn Taylor
- WHO’S BACK: Sam Merrill, Neemias Queta, Diogo Brito, Brock Miller, Abel Porter
- WHO’S COMING IN: Alphonso Anderson, Liam McChesney, Sean Bairstow
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Diogo Brito, Abel Porter, Sam Merrill, Brock Miller, Neemias Queta
- WHO’S GONE: Paul White, Louis King, Ehab Amin, Kenny Wooten, Bol Bol, Victor Bailey
- WHO’S BACK: Payton Pritchard, Will Richardson, Francis Okoro
- WHO’S COMING IN: N’Faly Dante, C.J. Walker, Anthony Mathis, Shakur Juiston, Chris Duarte, Lok Wur
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Payton Pritchard, Chris Duarte, Anthony Mathis, C.J. Walker, Shakur Juiston
- WHO’S GONE: Justin Coleman, Ryan Luther, Brandon Randolph
- WHO’S BACK: Dylan Smith, Chase Jeter, Brandon Williams, Alex Barcello, Ira Lee
- WHO’S COMING IN: Nico Mannion, Josh Green, Max Hazzard, Terry Armstrong, Christian Koloko, Zeke Nnaji, Stone Gettings
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Max Hazzard, Nico Mannion, Josh Green, Ira Lee, Chase Jeter
17. SAINT MARY’S
- WHO’S GONE: Jordan Hunter
- WHO’S BACK: Jordan Ford, Malik Fitts, Tommy Kuhse, Tanner Krebs, Dan Fotu, Jock Perry
- WHO’S COMING IN: Alex Ducas, Kyle Bowen
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Jordan Ford, Tommy Kuhse, Tanner Krebs, Malik Fitts, Jock Perry
- WHO’S GONE: Ryan Welage, Zach Hankins, Kyle Castlin, Elias Harden
- WHO’S BACK: Quentin Goodin, Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs, Tyrique Jones
- WHO’S COMING IN: Kyky Tandy, Dahmir Bishop, Zach Freemantle, Jason Carter, Daniel Ramsey, Dieonte Miles
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Quentin Goodin, Paul Scruggs, Naji Marshall, Jason Carter, Tyrique Jones
- WHO’S GONE: Tremont Waters, Naz Reid, Kavell-Bigby Williams
- WHO’S BACK: Javonte Smart, Skylar Mays, Emmitt Williams, Marlon Taylor, Darius Days
- WHO’S COMING IN: Trendon Watford, James Bishop
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Javonte Smart, Skylar Mays, Marlon Taylor, Trendon Watford, Emmitt Williams
- WHO’S GONE: King McClure, Makai Mason, Jake Lindsey
- WHO’S BACK: Tristan Clark, Mario Kegler, Jared Butler, Devonte Bandoo, Mark Vital, Freddie Gillespie, Matthew Mayer
- WHO’S COMING IN: Jordan Turner, MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, Mark Vital, Mario Kegler, Tristan Clark
- WHO’S GONE: Jeremiah Martin, Kyvon Davenport, Mike Parks Jr., Raynere Thornton, Kareem Brewton, Antwann Jones Jr.
- WHO’S BACK: Tyler Harris, Alex Lomax, Isaiah Maurice
- WHO’S COMING IN: James Wiseman, D.J. Jeffries, Lester Quinones, Malcolm Dandridge, Damian Baugh, Lance Thomas, Precious Achiuwa, Boogie Ellis
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Tyler Harris, Boogie Ellis, D.J. Jeffries, Precious Achiuwa, James Wiseman
- WHO’S GONE: Jared Harper, Bryce Brown, Malik Dunbar, Horace Spencer, Chuma Okeke
- WHO’S BACK: Samir Doughty, J’Von McCormick, Danjel Purifoy, Anfernee McLemore, Austin Wiley
- WHO’S COMING IN: Isaac Okoro, Tyrell Jones, Jaylin Williams, Babatunde Akingbola, Allen Flanigan, Jamal Johnson
- PROJECTED STARTERS: J’Von McCormick, Samir Doughty, Danjel Purifoy, Isaac Okoro, Anfernee McLemore
- WHO’S GONE: Admiral Schofield, Kyle Alexander, Jordan Bone, Grant Williams
- WHO’S BACK: Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, Yves Pons, Derrick Walker Jr., John Fulkerson, D.J. Burns, Jalen Johnson
- WHO’S COMING IN: Josiah James, Drew Pember, Olivier Nkamoua, Davonte Gaines
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, Josiah James, Yves Pons, John Fulkerson
- WHO’S GONE: Michael Gilmore
- WHO’S BACK: Marcus Evans, Isaac Vann, Deriante Jenkins, Marcus Santos-Silva, Vince Williams, Mike’L Simms, P.J. Byrd, Malik Crawford
- WHO’S COMING IN: Jarren McAlister
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Marcus Evans, Isaac Vann, Vince Williams, Deriante Jenkins, Marcus Santos-Silva
25. OHIO STATE
- WHO’S GONE: C.J. Jackson, Keyshawn Woods
- WHO’S BACK: Kaleb Wesson, Andre Wesson, Luther Muhammad, Duane Washington, Kyle Young, Justin Aherns, Musa Jallow, Jaedon LeDee
- WHO’S COMING IN: D.J. Carton, Alonzo Gaffney, EJ Liddel, Ibrahima Diallo, CJ Walker
- PROJECTED STARTERS: C.J. Walker, Duane Washington Jr., Luther Muhammad, Andre Wesson, Kaleb Wesson
- WHO’S GONE: Nathan Ekwu, Dusan Kovacevic
- WHO’S BACK: Kellan Grady, Jon Axel Gudmundson, Luka Brajkovic, Luke Frampton, Kishawn Pritchett, Carter Collins, David Czerapowicz, Bates Jones
- WHO’S COMING IN: Hyunjung Lee, David Kristensen
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Kellan Grady, Jon Axel Gudmundson, Luke Frampton, Kishawn Pritchett, Luka Brajkovic
- WHO’S GONE: Sam Froling, Kaleb Joseph, Connor Cashaw
- WHO’S BACK: Davion Mintz, Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitchell Ballock, Jacob Epperson, Damien Jefferson, Marcus Zegarowski
- WHO’S COMING IN: Shereef Mitchell
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Davion Mintz, Marcus Zegarowski, Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitchell Ballock, Jacob Epperson
- WHO’S GONE: Jaylen Nowell, Noah Dickerson, Matisse Thybulle, David Crisp, Dominic Green
- WHO’S BACK: Nahziah Carter, Hameir Wright, Sam Timmins, Jamal Bey
- WHO’S COMING IN: Isaiah Stewart, Jaden McDaniels, Quade Green, Marcus Tsohonis, RaeQuan Battle
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Quade Green, Nahziah Carter, Hameir Wright, Jaden McDaniels, Isaiah Stewart
- WHO’S GONE: Namon Wright
- WHO’S BACK: McKinley Wright IV, Tyler Bey, D’shawn Schwartz, Lucas Siewert, Evan Battey, Shane Gatling, Daylen Kountz
- WHO’S COMING IN: No one
- PROJECTED STARTERS: McKinley Wright IV, Shane Gatling, Tyler Bey, D’Shawn Schwartz, Lucas Siewert
- WHO’S GONE: Sam Hauser, Joey Hauser, Joseph Chartouny
- WHO’S BACK: Markus Howard, Theo John, Sacar Anim, Ed Morrow, Jamal Cain
- WHO’S COMING IN: Koby McEwen, Symir Torrence, Jayce Johnson
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Markus Howard, Koby McEwen, Sacar Anim, Brendan Bailey, Theo John