Guardian of elite freshman added to Western Kentucky coaching staff

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Last month power forward Charles Bassey, originally considered to be one of the top prospects in the Class of 2019, announced that he would be moving into the 2018 class and joining the Western Kentucky basketball program. Tuesday afternoon the program made another move, with head coach Rick Stansbury announcing that Hennssy Auriantal, Bassey’s legal guardian, has been named an assistant coach.

Auriantal, who is also the legal guardian of another current Western Kentucky player in forward/center Moustapha Diagne, operated the Yes II Success program that in the past saw multiple players from foreign countries make the move to Division I college basketball.

Auriantal, who served as an assistant at Jackson State from 2014 to 2016, spent time at St. Anthony Catholic School in San Antonio during Bassey’s sophomore season (2016-17) and Aspire Academy in Louisville last season after being fired from his position at St. Anthony.

Auriantal’s departure from St. Anthony came in the aftermath of a San Antonio Express-News story detailing Bassey’s arrival from Nigeria, and the forward was one of five international players declared ineligible prior to the 2016-17 season by the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. In April the Kentucky Center for Investigational Reporting published a story about Aspire Academy, which included questions of how the school landed international talents such as Bassey and Auriantal’s connection to Aspire.

The hiring or Auriantal will certainly draw its fair share of complaints, but it’s important to note that per NCAA rules a person connected to a prospect can be hired so long as it’s for an assistant coaching position and not a support staff role. If a head coach wants to use a spot on his coaching staff for this purpose, regardless of that person’s level of experience, that’s their right.

This is the second consecutive summer in which Stansbury has added a five-star prospect to his WKU program, but the circumstances surrounding Bassey’s commitment are far different than those of Mitchell Robinson last year and Tuesday’s announcement is further evidence of that.

Robinson, who originally committed to Texas A&M while Stansbury was an assistant there, would go on to commit to WKU before ultimately withdrawing from school last summer and deciding to use the year to prepare fo the 2018 NBA Draft. Robinson was selected in the second round of last month’s draft by the Knicks, and not playing anywhere last season impacted the draft prospects of a big man with lottery-level talent.