Conspirator pleads guilty in FBI’s ongoing college basketball recruiting investigation

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A former AAU coach has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors during the ongoing FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting.

Thomas “T.J.” Gassnola, formerly of the New England Playaz AAU basketball team, entered the plea on March 30, as U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in New York ordered that the documents be unsealed on April 12. The documents were finally publicly revealed on Friday.

After the latest reports into the scandal, Gassnola was identified as “co-conspirator-3” when the FBI added new charges against Adidas executive Jim Gatto earlier this month. Those charges also formally included Kansas and N.C. State — both Adidas programs — in alleged payment schemes for elite prospects.

According to documents, Gassnola withdrew $50,000 from Adidas in cash on Oct. 31, 2016 and personally delivered approximately $30,000 to a player’s mother in a New York City hotel room. A similar incident happened in a Las Vegas hotel room with $20,000 in cash on Jan. 19, 2017. That same parent also allegedly received a $15,000 wire transfer around June 14, 2017.

That player is believed to be Billy Preston, a former Kansas enrollee who never suited up for the Jayhawks last season before eventually turning pro. The court documents also allege that Gassnola agreed to make payments to the legal guardian of another prospect, believed to be Kansas freshman Silvio De Sousa.

Since Gassnola runs the New England Playaz Adidas grassroots program, it’s interesting to see that he was used in so many of these alleged payments. Gassnola wasn’t directly responsible for coaching any of the players involved in this portion of the scandal. But he seems to be a trusted middleman that Adidas was using to help facilitate some of these moves.

It makes you wonder who else could potentially be involved in this scandal if AAU coaches of non-affiliated players are getting roped into making payments on behalf of a shoe company. Is Gassnola the only AAU coach who did this sort of thing? Or were others involved as well? We’ll have to wait to see how everything plays out with this and if Gassnola is willing to name any more names.