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Best Bets: 2019 college basketball conference tournament betting odds, values, futures

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These tournaments have not yet released brackets since their regular season has not yet finished:

Big Sky, MAC, SWAC, MEAC, Sun Belt, WAC, Southland, Conference USA, Big West, Ivy

All odds listed are courtesy of DraftKings SportsBook.

The cheat sheet: Illinois State, Jacksonville State, Charleston and LIU-Brooklyn are my favorite futures bets this week. Read on to find out why.

CONFERENCE TOURNEYS: 21 Mid-Major Stars | Best Bets | Bid Thieves | Schedule


AMERICA EAST

FAVORITE: It’s VERMONT (-670). It’s always Vermont. John Becker is currently the caretaker of the best program in the America East, and for the third straight year, he’s led them to a conference regular season title and a spot in KenPom’s top 100. Anthony Lamb is an absolute monster, there are three brothers that all play major minutes and T.J. Sorrentine still hit that one from the parking lot. The value, however, is wildly thin. Take them in the Jerome. Don’t invest in a future.

SLEEPER: Jeff Boals has won a bunch of road games with STONY BROOK (+300) this year and John Gallagher has done well to turn HARTFORD (+1400) around, but the value bets I like are UMBC (+2000) and Albany (+15000). UVM has lost just two league games this year, and both of those losses came at the hands of UMBC. Ryan Odom had a lot of turnover to deal with this year, but he has done a good job keeping the Retrievers relevant. They are the No. 3 seed, however, so they would likely end up playing on the road against Stony Brook in the semis, assuming seeds hold.

Albany is interesting for two reasons: 1. The Great Danes are young this year but they’ve played their best basketball of late. After an 0-5 start to league play, they won seven of their last 11. They’ll have to win three road games to get it done, but Will Brown has been to the NCAA tournament before and, weirdly enough, they’re probably been better on the road than at home of late.

ATLANTIC SUN

FAVORITE: We are already in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun tournament, so LIPSCOMB (-455) is the heavy favorite. They were the best team in the league for most of the year, although they shared a regular season title with LIBERTY (+230) after losing to FGCU unexpectedly. The Bisons are led by one of the best mid-major players you haven’t heard of in Garrison Matthews, and their head coach is a disciple of Belmont’s Rick Byrd. They have an outside shot of getting an at-large bid, but that seems unlikely.

At these odds, I like Liberty significantly more than Lipscomb. There’s just no value in betting the Bisons when it takes $45 to win $10.

SLEEPERS: I do think that NORTH FLORIDA (+4000) is interesting. It’s a big ask for the Ospreys to win two games in a row against teams that lost two league games not to each other, but two notes: UNF has now won seven straight after beating North Alabama in the quarterfinals, and just two weeks ago, they beat Liberty. At 40:1, that interests me.

CAA

FAVORITE: HOFSTRA (+105) won the CAA regular season title and counts the best player in the conference — Justin Wright-Foreman — on their roster. The Pride don’t really guard all that well, however, which is what makes NORTHEASTERN (+150) interesting as well.

SLEEPER: All that said, I think the best bet in this tournament is CHARLESTON (+340). The Cougars not only finished third in the league this year, they not only have a terrific young coach in Earl Grant to go along with arguably the best 1-2 punch in the league in Grant Riller and Jarrell Brantley, but they are coming off of a trip to the NCAA tournament last season.

The kicker?

The tournament is being played in Charleston. It won’t be in their home arena, but it sure will be a lot easier for Cougar fans to get there than it will be for Hofstra students on Long Island or Northeastern students in Boston.

MAAC

FAVORITE: That title probably has to be given to IONA (+230) seeing as they won the league regular season title and have won three straight MAAC tournament titles. That said, the Gaels finished the regular season at 12-6 and there were four teams tied for second at 11-7. It’s a down year in the MAAC with opens the door for a wild tournament.

SLEEPERS: It’s hard to call any of these teams sleepers given the fact that everyone in the top half of the conference is getting odds like they are a sleeper. I think my favorite bet here is SIENA (+265) simply because their head coach, Jamion Christian, has been to the NCAA tournament twice with Mount St. Mary’s despite being just 36 years old. They have the best young player in the league on their roster in Jalen Pickett as well.

I also think QUINNIPIAC (+260) is interesting, given the presence of Cameron Young, who had 55 points in a game this year. CANISIUS (+375) is also worth a look, but they are playing without the MAAC Preseason Player of the Year, who was dismissed in February. I’m probably staying away from this tournament.

MISSOURI VALLEY

FAVORITE: Are you ready for another year of Sister Jean? LOYOLA-CHICAGO (+160) won the Missouri Valley regular season title for the second straight season and will enter Arch Madness as the favorite to return to the dance out of the conference. They are a grind-it-out defensive team that returns three starters from last year’s Final Four team — Cameron Krutwig, Clayton Custer and MVC Player of the Year Marques Townes — and they also return Lucas Williamson, who was out with an injury for the better part of six weeks.

I don’t love the odds, but it’s hard to bet against the team that has been there before.

SLEEPER: Stay away from DRAKE (+350), as the Bulldogs finished tied for first in the league standings but have been decimated by injuries. There just isn’t enough value there. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (+400) entered the season as one of the favorites to win the league title, and the Salukis will enter Arch Madness having won three in a row.

But for my money, the best longshot bet here is ILLINOIS STATE (+1600). The Redbirds were picked second in the preseason poll but finished seventh in the league, meaning they get stuck in one of the MVC play-in games. No one has ever played in a play-in game in the MVC tournament and reached the final, and only one team has gone on to upset the No. 1 or No 2 seed in the quarterfinals. Those are long odds. But ISU is arguably the most talented team in the league this side of Loyola, headlined by the enigmatic Milik Yarbrough. They swept Evansville, who they played in the first round, and then they draw Drake — who just lost D.J. Wilkins to a broken ankle — in the quarters. They’ve played in the last two MVC title games.

If someone is going to snap that streak, this is the team to do it.

NEC

FAVORITE: ST.FRANCIS (PA) (+120) caught a break, winning a tiebreaker that gave them the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and thus homecourt advantage throughout. That said, the Red Flash have lost two of their last three games and currently rank 325th in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. I don’t love that value, but I do like the value for FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON (+220), the No. 2 seed, slightly more. FDU is the best shooting team in the league, which would create an interesting strength-on-weakness matchup if these two get to the title game.

FDU started league play 1-4, but they’ve won 11 of 13 since, including their last five games. They also won at St. Francis (PA).

SLEEPER: In a wide-open NEC, I like LIU-BROOKLYN (+1800). They have a veteran backcourt, led by senior guard Raiquan Clark, who might be the best player in the league. They’ve won three in a row and four of their last five — which includes a win over their first round opponent and a win at St. Francis (PA), who they would likely face in the semifinals if they advance.

OHIO VALLEY

FAVORITES: Both BELMONT (-112) and MURRAY STATE (+100) have to be considered heavy favorites for the OVC tournament title because of the way that the bracket is set up — the top two seeds get a bye all the way to the semifinals, and Belmont is the No. 1 seed while the Racers are the No. 2 seed.

Everyone should know about the Bruins at this point. Rick Byrd has built a mid-major powerhouse in the heart of Nashville, and this year’s team is about what you expect: They have a star with NBA potential in Dylan Windler, they are one of the most efficient offenses in the country and they haven’t lost in six weeks. If Belmont loses to Murray State and only Murray State in the title game, they’ll have an argument to be an at-large bid thanks to a sweep of Lipscomb and a win at UCLA.

The Racers, on the other hand, have a soon-to-be top three pick on their roster in Ja Morant, and he can take over any game against any opponent. He’s averaging 24.1 points and 10.4 assists. It’s worth noting that the only time these two teams played this season, Belmont won by double-figures in Murray, Ky., but that it came in a game where Morant rolled his ankle in the first two minutes of the game. I tend to lean towards Belmont here, but that has a lot to do with the team that the Racers seem destined to play in the semifinals.

SLEEPER: I think my favorite sleeper bet this week is JACKSONVILLE STATE (+900), who is currently getting 9:1 odds to win the automatic bid out of the OVC. The Gamecocks finished 15-3 in the OVC this season, one game behind both Belmont and Murray State, but they swept both of them during the regular season, going 3-0 with a win at Belmont and a 20 point win at home over the Racers.

The Gamecocks are also coached by Ray Harper, who is the best tournament coach you’ve never heard of. He won the OVC tournament in 2017 with a Jacksonville State team that went 9-7 in league play. He won the Sun Belt tournament in back-to-back seasons with Western Kentucky with teams that went a combined 17-19 in league play. He won back-to-back NAIA Division I national titles in 2007 and 2008 and has also won two NCAA Division II national titles. Is this the year he does it again?

PATRIOT LEAGUE

FAVORITE: The best team in the league is probably COLGATE (+100), who will have home court advantage throughout the tournament and has won their last eight games. If it’s not Colgate, then BUCKNELL (+160) is probably the team to keep an eye on, as they shared the regular season title and are coming off a trip to the NCAA tournament of their own. That said, in a league where the race is so wide open, it’s hard to justify such thin value on a futures bet.

SLEEPER: I think that the best value in the Patriot tournament is AMERICAN (+800). I don’t love it, because they lost four of their last six to close out the regular season, but they have Sa’eed Nelson — who KenPom rates as the Patriot Player of the Year — and of their 14 losses, six of them came by two points or less, two more came in overtime and a ninth came by four at Colgate. A loss is a loss is a loss, but they are a dozen or so possessions away from being a five-loss team.

SOCON

FAVORITE: There are just two teams in college basketball this season that ran through their league undefeated. One of them is Gonzaga. The other is WOFFORD (-167). The Terriers are very, very legit this year. They are top 15 in the NET. They are top 20 in KenPom. Fletcher Magee is probably going to end up setting the record for career three-pointers made, and he isn’t even the best player on the roster based on efficiency numbers. Big man Cameron Jackson is. Throw in the fact that their starting point guard is named Storm Murphy — seriously, Wofford starts Fletcher and Storm in their backcourt — and there’s no reason not to love this group.

I actually think this is pretty good value, maybe the best value bet in the field.

SLEEPERS: There are three that we are going to have to discuss: FURMAN (+300), UNC GREENSBORO (+575) and EAST TENNESSEE STATE (+450). I think they are the only three worth discussing because there was only one team that was not a part of the top four that landed a win over any of them in league play.

ETSU is the No. 4 seed, which means they draw Wofford in the semifinals, assuming they get there. That’s actually unlucky for the conference as a whole, because had either Furman or UNCG beaten Wofford in the semis and lost in the title game, they would have had a shot at getting an at-large bid. Of the three, Furman is the best defensively, ETSU is the best offensively and UNCG had the best league record, sweeping ETSU and splitting with Furman. Of the four, UNCG is the furthest away from Asheville, N.C. — almost a three hour drive vs. a roughly one hour drive for the other three schools. I’d probably lean UNCG because of the odds, but I think the best bet in this tournament is Wofford.

SUMMIT

FAVORITE: For the last three years, the Summit League tournament has produced the exact same thing: SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (-286) winning the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and Mike Daum winning tournament MOP. This year, the Jackrabbits enter March having won 13 of their last 14 games, the regular season champs and the No. 1 seed in the event. Take them in the Jerome. Fade the futures bet at thin value.

SLEEPERS: I like FORT WAYNE (+750) as they are one of the two teams to beat SDSU this season, but they have lost four straight games and play a true road game in the first round against No. 6 seed SOUTH DAKOTA (+1100). Hosting the event does make the Coyotes interesting, especially since the title game would be the final rivalry game they get against the Dauminator. I also like OMAHA (+525) as they are the only team to beat SDSU in the last two months, they finished second in the conference and they have won 16 of their last 19 games over all.

WCC

FAVORITE: It’s GONZAGA (-1250). Not only did they go undefeated in WCC play, they didn’t win a game by single digits.

SLEEPER: I think that SAINT MARY’S (+1100) is interesting because they have a future pro at the point in Jordan Ford and, like the OVC, they get a bye in to the semifinals as the No. 2 seed. The Gaels hung with the Zags in Moraga last weekend and don’t matchup terribly with Gonzaga. That said, I think I like SAN FRANCISCO (+2400) a little bit more. There’s an argument to be made that this is the second-best team in the conference, they have one of the best young coaches on the west coast in Kyle Smith and they are a veteran-laden team with a point guard named Frankie Ferrari that will be playing in a tournament in Vegas.

All the dots connect.

Ex-Michigan State star Mateen Cleaves acquitted in sex assault case

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FLINT, Mich. — A jury acquitted former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves Tuesday on charges alleging he sexually assaulted a woman in a motel room four years ago.

The verdict announced in a Genesee County courtroom in Cleaves’ hometown of Flint came after a nearly-two week trial that included the testimony of the Mount Morris woman, who told jurors that she had wanted to leave the motel room but Cleaves continued to force himself on her.

Evidence against Cleaves included a video that prosecutors contended showed the woman pulling away from Cleaves. Prosecutors argued she tried twice to escape from the motel room.

Cleaves did not testify. One of his attorneys, Frank Manley, said Cleaves had consensual sex with the woman who was in the motel room “of her own free will” after a charity golf tournament and visit to a bar. Cleaves’ attorneys told jurors that the woman lied about what happened because she felt guilty about cheating on her boyfriend.

The 41-year-old Cleaves was acquitted on all charges, including unlawful imprisonment and assault with intent to commit criminal sexual penetration. He had faced a maximum of 15 years in prison had he been convicted.

Cleaves has long denied the allegations, saying in a March 2016 tweet that he was “innocent and the allegations are without merit.”

The trial itself came after a long legal battle that started in late 2016 when a district judge dismissed the charges, saying that there were a number of factors that suggested “something else was going on” between Cleaves and the woman.

But in 2017, the charges were reinstated after the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office filed an appeal that contended the judge had abused her “discretion of power” in dismissing the charges. Then last year, the Michigan Supreme Court refused to review that decision, clearing the way for the trial.

Cleaves is a revered figure in Michigan, an integral part of a Michigan State team that won the national championship in 2000 before his six-year NBA career.

And on Tuesday, sitting in a courtroom was another reminder of that team: Coach Tom Izzo. Izzo told The Detroit News that he did not know the details about the allegations against his former star player but wanted to be in the courtroom to support Cleaves as he would “any of my guys.”

Mick Cronin lands first five-star recruit at UCLA

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Less than 24 hours after cutting his list to five schools, five-star point guard Daishen Nix committed to UCLA.

Nix is a 6-foot-5 point guard from Alaska that’s currently playing his high school ball in Las Vegas. He’s known for his court vision and elite basketball IQ with a developing jumper and a feel for the game that cannot be taught. He ranks as a top 15 prospect, according to 247 Sports.

He was Mick Cronin’s top target at the point guard spot, and Cronin landed him. That’s notable, because one of the concerns that people had about UCLA’s decision to hire Cronin was whether or not a coach known for his toughness, his intensity and his team’s propensity for being defense first would adjust to playing at California’s flagship program, where tempo is a must and defense has been, for the last half-decade, optional.

And while it remains to be seen how the team and program will adjust to his coaching style – I will have a story coming on that later this week – at the very least, Cronin has proven that he can dip his toe in the west coast recruiting waters and get a player that he prioritized.

Who are the best basketball prospects that have yet to play in the NBA?

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Over the course of the next two weeks, Pro Basketball Talk will be rolling out a project that we have been working on for the last month: Ranking the top 50 players five years from now.

Players ranked 46-50 were unveiled today.

You can find that list here.

In the meantime, since it is relevant, here at College Basketball Talk we are going to take a look at the guys that, in 2024, may actually deserve a spot on a top 50 players list that you may not know about just yet.

So without further ado, here are the ten best prospects that have yet to play a game in the professional ranks.

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1. Emoni Bates, Class of 2022

Bates is the shoe-in at No. 1 on this list. Over the years I’ve gotten to know quite a few of the scouts that do recruiting rankings and cover the sport at the high school level. These guys have been in the business for a long time – some for decades – and every single one of them rave about Bates in a way that you don’t often see players get talked about. One called him the best freshman he’s ever scouted. One called him as good as any prospect that he’s scouted in more than 20 years in the business. One called him the best prospect in high school hoops, which is exactly where I have him on this list. Personally, I think that he’s the closest thing that we’ve seen to Kevin Durant since Kevin Durant.

I wrote a story on Bates from Peach Jam back in July, and one of the things that I made sure to note in that story is the danger that comes with this level of hype at this age. Many of the things that are being said about Bates were said about Renardo Sidney at the same age, and we know how that turned out. Part of the reason I’m a little less-hesitant to make such proclamations with Bates is that he has an alpha mentality and competitive streak that you don’t see all that often. So not only does he have the physical tools as a super-skilled, 6-foot-9 scorer with range out to the NBA three-point line, but once he gets on the court, he’s an a–hole in all of the best ways.

2. Cade Cunningham, Class of 2020

Cunningham is tailor-made for modern basketball. He’s a 6-foot-7, 220 pound point forward. He’s a tough, physical and athletic wing that, two years ago, made the transition to playing the point full time. He has the savvy, the maturity and the polish of an NBA veteran. He doesn’t have the highlight reel athleticism of guys like Zion Williamson or Ja Morant, but he has the kind of functional athleticism that will allow him to split the defense, avoid the charge, absorb the contact and finish in traffic. He was the MVP of the EYBL circuit this past season, and if he continues to improve his shooting stroke, there’s a very real chance that he gets picked with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft.

I think the best way to phrase it is this: He will likely be the first player to ever get compared to Luka Doncic, and I’m not sure how much more complimentary you can get.

James Wiseman (Elsa/Getty Images)

3. James Wiseman, Memphis

4. Evan Mobley, Class of 2020

I’m listing these two together because they really are quite similar prospects. Both stand 7-foot. Both have the kind of length, mobility and athleticism that should allow them to thrive at the five in the modern NBA. Both of them are capable defenders with the potential to be very, very good with some added strength and a bit of motivation. And both of them are skilled enough where they have the potential of one day doing all four things modern fives are asked to do – protect the rim, switch ball-screens, space the floor to the three-point line, be a lob target as a roll-man in ball-screens.

Now, there are some differences. Wiseman, at this point, is probably more physically developed – he is a year older – while Mobley, at 6-foot-11 and 200 pounds, is going to have to make the absolute most of the meal plan USC gets him on. Mobley, on the other hand, seems to be more accepting of the fact that he’s destined to be a five in the NBA while Wiseman, in the words of one NBA draftnik, “thinks he’s Giannis when in reality he’s a lot closer to Myles Turner.”

There is nothing wrong with being Myles Turner. He just turned 23 years old and he is coming off of a season where he averaged 13.3 points, 7.2 boards and an NBA-best 2.7 blocks while shooting 38.8 percent from three. He’s really good. But he also knows what he is and what he isn’t, and he isn’t Giannis.

5. Jonathan Kuminga, Class of 2021

Kuminga is a super-explosive, 6-foot-8 wing that is just now starting to figure out how good he has the chance to be. He has all the physical tools that you want out of a wing – height, length, athleticism, versatility – and he has shown that he is willing and able to defend multiple positions. The big thing with him in the long-term is going to be how well his jumpshot develops, and if that comes along, his upside is as high as anyone on this list. I do think it’s worth noting that at Peach Jam, he was in the same group as Terrence Clarke and Patrick Baldwin Jr. and justified his spot on this list.

6. Jalen Green, Class of 2020

Green has all the makings of a future top five pick. At 6-foot-5, he’s a naturally gifted scorer that makes the game look easy. He’s at his best when he’s slashing to the bucket, where he can finish above the rim and also has a shiftiness about him in the lane. He’s a capable ball-handler and passer, but he’s going to make his money as a bucket-getter. If his jumper catches up to the rest of his game, look out.

7. Anthony Edwards, Georgia

Edwards is a big time scorer and athlete that has the ideal physical tools for a combo-guard. He’s a sturdy 6-foot-5 with length and explosive athleticism. His game is well-rounded. He’s a good shooter that can also operate in ball-screens, create for his teammates and shoot off the dribble. In theory, he’s an ideal fit for a sport that is becoming more and more reliant on scorers that can create in isolation with shooters spacing the court. Part of the reason he stayed home to play for Georgia is that Tom Crean coached both Victor Oladipo and Dwyane Wade in college, and those two are what Edwards has the potential to be at the next level.

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8. Cole Anthony, North Carolina

Anthony is going to get a lot of hype heading into the 2020 draft. Beyond the simple fact that he is the son of UNLV legend and NBA journeyman Greg Anthony, Cole Anthony is headed to North Carolina, where Roy Williams is going to slot him into the same role that he used Coby White in last year. He is going to get a lot of shots, he’s going to score a lot of points and he’s going to have a lot of highlight reel plays in the process. My big question with Cole longterm is that I’m not convinced that he is big enough to play off the ball, I’m not sure he is a natural point guard and I don’t know if he is quite good enough to be allowed to play the way he has throughout his career at the NBA level. There is definitely some potential here, but I think the fit at the NBA level makes more sense with Green and Edwards than it does with Anthony.

RISING SON: Cole Anthony remains grounded while following his father’s footsteps

9. Terrence Clarke, Class of 2021

Clarke is a wiry-strong, 6-foot-6 off-guard from Boston that has the potential to be the No. 1 pick in whatever draft he ends up in. (There’s a chance he can reclassify into 2020.) He’s an explosive athlete that can finish in traffic while also displaying a high-level feel for the game. He’s an improving shooter that can create off the bounce in isolation, and his court vision and passing gives him the upside of having some positional versatility down the road.

10. Patrick Baldwin Jr., Class of 2021

As one coach at a top ten program told me this summer, Patrick Baldwin Jr. “is the best shooting big man I’ve ever scouted.” Still just heading into his junior year in high school, Baldwin recently went through a growth spurt that saw him sprout up to 6-foot-10. He needs to add some strength and weight to his frame (what 16 year old doesn’t?) but that size and shooting ability is not something that we see all that often. The big question for Baldwin is how well the rest of his game develops. Is he simply a pick-and-pop five, or will he continue to develop a floor game and the physical tools that will allow him to be a plus-defender in the NBA?

THREE THAT JUST MISSED THIS LIST

Jaden McDaniels, Washington: McDaniels’ upside is as high as anyone on this list save for Bates and Cunningham. At 6-foot-10, he’s a skilled wing with a perimeter game and a developing shooting stroke. It’s not hard to watch him play and see what he can be if he continues to put in the work, but he has a ways to go to get there. He’s still just 190 pounds and, at this point, more of a prospect that a producer.

Paolo Banchero, Class of 2021: Banchero is a tough prospect to gauge the ceiling of. He’s already 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds with a frame that should easily be able to hold more muscle, but without the kind of physical tools that will set him apart from the field. I think it’s also fair to say that his best skill at this point is how well-rounded he is. Put another way, he’s one of those guys that can do everything well – he can shoot it, he can pass, he can beat bigger defenders facing up, he can hold his own defending the paint, etc. – with an exceedingly high basketball IQ. Put another way, outside of continuing to stretch out his shooting range, I’m not sure just how much better he’s going to end up getting.

Jalen Johnson, Class of 2020: Johnson’s biggest strength at this point is probably his basketball IQ and passing ability at this size. He’s a 6-foot-9 lefty with a complete skillset and the kind of floor vision at this size that will make you think Ben Simmons lost his Aussie accent. Already committed to Duke, Johnson will likely continue to generate buzz as his defense and perimeter stroke improve.

Michael Avennati makes court filing alleging Nike cleared payments to Zion Williamson, Romeo Langford

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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.

Arkansas dismisses forward Gabe Osabuohien

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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).