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Adidas consultant details underground economy in testimony Thursday

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Last week, it was Brian Bowen Sr.’s testimony that named names, schools and specifics of college basketball’s recruiting underbelly. Thursday, it was T.J. Gassnola’s turn to do the same.

The former adidas consultant detailed in a federal courtroom while under oath the web of money, players, middlemen, coaches and inner-workings of his dealings in the world of college basketball recruiting.

It was an eventful day.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the day’s proceedings, courtesy of info provided by CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander, who was a witness to it all at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse in Manhattan.

 

  • Gassnola said that he gave money to Dennis Smith’s family first when the five-star guard was a junior in high school and then $40,000 in 2015 went to NC State assistant Orlando Early, who said he’d give it to Smith’s trainer. Smith played 2016-17 at NC State before becoming an NBA draft lottery pick.

 

  • Gassnola said he tried to recruit Deandre Ayton, who ultimately went to Arizona and was the top pick in June’s NBA draft, to Kansas and felt like he let Jayhawks coach Bill Self down when Ayton picked the Nike-affiliated Wildcats. Gassnola said he gave $15,000 to a family friend of Ayton’s that was indended for Ayton’s mother when Ayton was a high school junior. Gassnola also testified that he tried to secure housing and a job for Ayton’s mother in Kansas.

 

  • Gassnola’s involvement in Ayton’s recruitment wasn’t his only testimony regarding Kansas. He said he gave $2,5000 to the guardian of current Jayhawk Silvio De Sousa when he learned that a Maryland booster was going to provide $60,000. Gassnola had planned future $20,000 payment, but the FBI case broke publicly before that could be completed. Gassnola said he became involved with De Sousa’s guardian, Fenny Falmagne, when Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend asked him to contact Falmagne about getting the Angolan National Team adidas gear. De Sousa is from Angola. Gassnola said he had a “brief conversation” with Kansas coach Bill Self about Angolan National Team situation, but that he did not divulge any payments he made to either Self or Townsend.

 

  • Former Jayhawk Billy Preston was also a topic of testimony Thursday. Gassnola alleged that he provided $90,000 in cash and wire transfer to Preston’s mother and her partner. Once he provided $30,000 in a New York hotel room and later supplied $20,000 in a Las Vegas hotel room, he said. Preston enrolled at Kansas, but never played as there were eligibility issues after he was involved in a car accident that raised questions about whose care he was driving.

 

  • Defense attorneys alleged that the high school coach of former Maryland standout Diamond Stone was seeking $150,000 “in order to recruit him for adidas.”

 

  • On a wiretapped phone call, adidas executive Merl Code is heard alleging that Arizona offered $150,000 to Nassir Little, who will be a freshman at North Carolina this season and whose family has denied receiving any illicit payments.

 

  • Gassnola testified he did not inform Louisville coach Rick Pitino of a $100,000 payment to the family of Brian Bowen Jr. Gassnola also said the first people he reached out to when he learned of the FBI’s investigation were his attorney and Pitino.

 

There is a lot to digest there. The main takeaway, I think, is just how extensive and seemingly systematic this ecosystem is, assuming that Gassnola and Bowen Sr. have delivered truthful testimony. This is an underground economy filled with people looking to squeeze a dollar from a situation that forces money under the table. Just look how many third parties are involved here. You’ve got a family friend. A mom’s partner. A high school coach. A college coach. Shoe company executives. An agent. There are so many ancillary people involved and who are positioned to make money off someone else’s value. If shoe companies – or whoever – could just pay athletes in the open, it seems clear that all this would be a little more seemly.

With so many layers and barriers built between the money and the players, this is a business that seems destined for corruption. Whether it meets that legal definition or not.

 

Four-star 2019 forward flips commitment from Big Ten to SEC program

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Four-star 2019 forward Tray Jackson flipped his verbal commitment from Minnesota to Missouri on Friday night.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decommitment from the Golden Gophers on Twitter and then announced a commitment to Missouri a little more than two hours later. Regarded as the No. 96 overall prospect in the Class of 2019, Jackson reclassified from the Class of 2018 and saw his recruitment blossom in the summer.

While decommitting happens in basketball recruiting semi-frequently, flipping a commitment to a new school within a matter of hours is a very uncommon practice. Typically associated with football recruiting, Jackson’s switch is a big deal for Missouri.

His pledge gives head coach Cuonzo Martin an athletic and versatile frontcourt player with upside as Jackson could play multiple positions. The Tigers missed on E.J. Liddell, but Jackson is a nice prize to land instead. Missouri now has two four-star prospects in the Class of 2019 as Jackson joins four-star guard Mario McKinney.

Minnesota needs to replenish its recruiting efforts as they are now without a commitment in the Class of 2019. With head coach Richard Pitino facing pressure to win this season, this isn’t good for the future of Golden Gopher basketball either.

West Virginia lands five-star 2019 center Oscar Tshiebwe

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West Virginia pulled in a major commitment on Saturday as five-star 2019 center Oscar Tshiebwe pledged to the Mountaineers.

A late-developing, high-motor big man who ascended into a national recruit this summer, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound Tshiebwe represents an important grab for West Virginia. Tshiebwe represents a potential replacement for Sagaba Konate in the middle as the Mountaineers beat some pretty impressive programs to land him. That includes Baylor and Kentucky.

Tshiebwe is quick off the floor and a good athlete, as he could be a very dangerous player in Bob Huggins’ system because of his brand of basketball. Regarded as the No. 21 overall prospect in the Rivals Class of 2019 national rankings, Tshiebwe also took official visits to Baylor, Illinois and Kentucky during the recruiting process.

Tshiebwe joins three-star guard Miles McBride in West Virginia’s 2019 recruiting haul.

VIDEO: Marshall’s Taevion Kinsey easily clears three teammates on ridiculous dunk

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Marshall freshman Taevion Kinsey put down one of the preseason’s best dunks on Friday night. With the Thundering Herd hosting Herd Madness, the 6-foot-5 Kinsey put down a ridiculous dunk that easily cleared three teammates.

Most dunkers use an arm on the shoulder during the dunk. Kinsey didn’t need any sort of help as he glided over his teammates.

Kinsey is going to be a dunker to keep an eye on in the future. His teammates certainly think highly of his dunking ability, as most of them projected Kinsey to win the dunk contest before the event even started.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson impresses Duke fans in Cameron Indoor debut, downplays link to trial

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Duke freshman Zion Williamson made some ridiculous dunks look effortless in his Cameron Indoor Stadium debut on Friday night. As part of Duke’s annual “Countdown to Craziness” event, Williamson took part in a scrimmage against his Blue Devil teammates.

That included Williamson going head-to-head with fellow freshman R.J. Barrett in a scrimmage. And more absurd dunks in the warm up line.

But besides for the on-court action, Williamson was also asked about his family’s link to the college basketball corruption trial. On Tuesday, a transcript of calls was read to the New York courtroom that allegedly included Williamson’s stepfather on FBI tapes asking for money and a job from Kansas men’s basketball coaches. The tapes were not admitted as evidence.

“Honestly, I’ve paid no attention to it,” Williamson said to reporters, including ESPN’s David M. Hale, about the trial. “I’m just a college kid, out here having fun with my classmates, looking forward to stuff like Countdown and our first game. You only get one chance at the college experience, and I want to enjoy it.”

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski also downplayed Williamson’s link to the trial, pointing to the NCAA eligibility center’s “exhaustive” process to vette incoming recruits.

“They have an eligibility center now that these kids and their parents go through — and they go through everything,” Krzyzewski said. “We feel very comfortable with him and all our freshmen.”

We’ll likely hear more about Williamson, Kansas and this trial, as time goes on. Williamson also might legitimately not know much about this if it was his stepfather on the call. For now, Williamson is making a huge impression with Duke fans every time he steps foot on the floor.

(H/t: Lawrence Davis III and Duke men’s basketball)

Louisville lands commitment from Irish basketball star

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For the sixth time since Chris Mack took over the Louisville program, the new Cardinal head coach has landed a commitment from a member of the Class of 2019.

On Friday, it was Aidon Igiehon, a top 50 recruit, that announced he will be playing his college basketball for the Cardinals.

He followed in the footsteps of fellow four-stars Samuell Williamson, David Johnson, Jaelyn Withers and Josh nickelberry, not to mention three-star forward Quinn Slazinski.

And all this has happened over the course of the last five months.

Mack got the job in April, after he finished his final run with a Xavier program that he had been in charge of for the last nine years. That came just six months after Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino was fired for a series of scandals that had enveloped the university in the last few years, not the least of which was their involvement with the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball.

That may be the most impressive part of all of this.

No one really knows what is going to happen with Louisville and the NCAA as a result of the way that they were able to entice Brian Bowen on campus. What we do know is that while Louisville was on probation due to the fact that a member of their coaching staff was paying for strippers and sex workers for players and recruits, an agreement was made for Adidas to pay the family of Brian Bowen $100,000 to get him to enroll at Louisville. Bowen’s father said under oath that, in addition to that money, he also accepted at least one $1,300 payment from former Louisville assistant Kenny Johnson.

Those are NCAA violations committed while the program was on probation.

And those are the kind of things that the NCAA does not take lightly.

Everyone involved with the reason that Louisville was on probation and that actually committed those violations has moved on, but that hasn’t stopped speculation that the Cardinals could be facing even more punishment from the NCAA, which is what has made this recruiting job by Mack so impressive.

He’s filled up an entire class of prospects before he’s even coached a game for the program all while this nonsense is swirling around his program.

Was there ever any doubt that the Cardinals hired the right guy?