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Pac-12 loosens intra-conference transfer rule

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The Pac-12 approved a measure Monday that will lighten restrictions on players that want to transfer to schools within the conference.

Players who now make an intra-conference transfer will no longer be subject to an immediate loss of a season of eligibility, the conference announced.

“This rule change removes one of the last remaining penalties associated with transferring between Conference schools,” the league said in a press release, “and is designed to provide student-athletes with a similar experience to any other student who decides to transfer.”

The league also has passed rules to beef up its non-conference schedule as programs will be required to a non-conference five-year trailing average of opponents’ NET ranking must be 175 or less, no participation in road buy games, no regular season games against non-Division I opponents and no road games versus a non-conference opponent with a five-year trailing average of 200 NET. Those requirements, along with the move to a 20-game conference schedule, come in response to continued struggles by the league in basketball, with last season seeing the league flirt with being a one-bid NCAA tournament conference. Ultimately, its league champion, Washington, received a No. 9 seed with Oregon getting a 12 and Arizona State an 11 and a First Four invitation.

 

Arizona lands Kentucky transfer Jemarl Baker

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Arizona landed a notable transfer on Tuesday night as former Kentucky guard Jemarl Baker Jr. announced his commitment to the Pac-12 program on Twitter.

A former four-star prospect who never earned consistent minutes with Kentucky, Baker opted to head West as the California native should become a key piece for Arizona once he’s eligible. After missing his freshman season with a season-ending knee injury, Baker returned to Kentucky’s rotation for the 2018-19 season as he averaged 2.3 points per game in 9.1 minutes per contest.

Known as a perimeter threat, Baker never consistently found his shooting touch for Kentucky last season as he only shot 31 percent from three-point range. Baker will have to sit out the 2019-2020 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but given his knee injury, he should have three seasons of eligibility remaining if he petitions the NCAA for the extra year.

While Baker couldn’t establish himself at arguably the deepest program in America, playing at Arizona could be a better fit as he’ll have a year to acclimate with the new Wildcats before taking the floor.

Christian Dawkins claims he never spoke with Arizona’s Sean Miller regarding payment to Deandre Ayton

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Christian Dawkins was found guilty of two of six charges he was facing in federal court during the second college basketball corruption case on Wednesday afternoon. But perhaps the most interesting thing that happened involving Dawkins was his comments to reporters following the jury’s verdict.

Dawkins was charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery as the two-week college basketball corruption trial concluded in New York on Wednesday. Afterwards, reporter Adam Zagoria asked Dawkins how he would have answered a question on the witness stand about Arizona head coach Sean Miller knowing that Arizona players were being paid. Government lawyers objected before Dawkins could answer in both instances as Dawkins was never given the chance to answer under oath.

Zagoria’s question follows up a previous ESPN report from Mark Schlabach in February 2018 in which Dawkins allegedly had a phone call with Miller centering around an alleged payment to star center Deandre Ayton.

Downplaying the alleged phone call, and Miller’s alleged payment to Ayton, Dawkins gave some surprisingly candid on-the-record quotes for a man who was just convicted of a federal crime.

“I’m not going to answer that,” Dawkins said to Zagoria. “Because this is the thing, I don’t see nothing wrong with it so I’m not gonna throw nobody under the bus for something that I agree with.

“I’m not going to put (Miller) in a position that could hurt him. It’s just too sensitive for me. I don’t care that much. I don’t want him to lose his job.

“I wasn’t there. I just got out of criminal court case for the last two months. I had no involvement with Deandre Ayton, that’s a fact,” Dawkins continued. “So the whole (February 2018) ESPN report (that said Dawkins and Miller discussed paying Ayton), that’s something I couldn’t say is accurate because I never had conversations about delivering Deandre Ayton to Arizona for Sean Miller. Didn’t happen.”

Dawkins also reiterated to Zagoria that it was Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson who brought up Ayton’s name during the trial.

“Book is saying, ‘Sean [Miller] gave Ayton X,Y,Z.’ I’m just listening,” Dawkins said.

Schlabach’s initial ESPN report said that FBI wiretaps intercepted telephone conversations between Miller and Dawkins in which Miller discussed paying $100,000 to make sure Ayton signed with Arizona. Dawkins’ comments on Wednesday contradict Schlabach’s initial report while none of the alleged phone calls between Dawkins and Miller have been included as evidence during the college basketball corruption trials.

Report: Arizona confirms it’s under NCAA investigation

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It’s been clear for some time now that the NCAA was going to have to look into Sean Miller’s Arizona program with all the information of alleged misdeeds that has come from the federal government’s investigation into corruption in college basketball.

The school confirmed Friday that such an investigation is underway, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Former assistant Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson has already pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the investigation, and wiretaps played at the second trial from the investigation last week further embroiled the Wildcats program in the case.

New NCAA rules will allow it to use evidence and testimony from the trial as it makes its own investigation, which could be troublesome to Miller and his program given all that has been said in court and on federal wiretaps. Even if Miller is not found to have done anything outside NCAA rules, he could still be in a tenuous position as NCAA rules hold head coaches accountable for the actions of their assistants.

 

Federal corruption trial continues to shine light on college basketball’s underground economy

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The federal trial of middleman Christian Dawkins and former shoe company executive Merl Code rolled along Monday, and it continued to be problematic for the sport of college basketball.

The start of the trial’s second week featured wiretaps and testimony that continued to paint the portrait of an underground industry in the sport featuring big-dollar payoffs, monthly retainers and routine violations of NCAA rules.

Cooperating witness Munish Sood testified that former Arizona assistant Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson accepted $20,000 in bribes while pushing players toward Dawkins and his associates, according to CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander. Richardson, who pleaded guilty to charges earlier this year, said on a wiretap that LSU coach Will Wade spoke to him about a job as both were recruiting Naz Reid, and that Wade “got $300,000” to facilitate Reid to LSU.

“I said listen, (expletive), give me half that and I’ll make sure he goes there,” Richardson said on the wiretap.

Reid ultimately did attend LSU, and has declared for the NBA draft after one season in Baton Rouge. Wade has been a frequent presence in the federal investigation into college basketball corruption, with Yahoo Sports reporting previously that he was on a wiretap saying he had made a “strong-ass offer” for recruit Javonte Smart as well as discussing a deal for prospect Balsa Koprivica. Wade was suspended to end the  season by LSU, but was recently reinstated by the school. How Monday’s revelations in court might impact his status with the school – and the NCAA – remains to be seen.

Richardson and Sood met in a Las Vegas lounge in 2017 to discuss access to players, Sood testified.

“I believe he was saying if we were helping him to recruit, he was going to deliver one or two players for us,” Sood said Monday.

Sood also testified that Richardson took $15,000 to assist in the recruitment of Jahvon Quinerly, who committed to Arizona before flipping to Villanova after details of the federal investigation became public in the fall of 2017, per CBS Sports.

“I believe payment was for Emmanuel Richardson to recruit a specific player,” Sood testified.

Dawkins says on a wiretap that Richardson was receiving $4,000 a month, “and that makes sense to give him four grand a month because he’s got the No. 1 pick, he’s got — every year they got a top-10 pick,” he said.

The trial continues Tuesday, when it would seem certain even more of the sport’s dirty laundry will be on display.

College basketball trial names big-name head coaches during Christian Dawkins video

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The college basketball corruption trial directly mentioned a few of the sport’s most prominent head coaches in a video played during testimony on Wednesday.

As college basketball’s second corruption trial began its second day in New York, known runner and convicted felon Christian Dawkins mentioned names such as Arizona’s Sean Miller and Louisville’s Rick Pitino during a video played for the courtroom. Dawkins seems to imply that Miller cheated in order land center Deandre Ayton while also appearing to absolve Rick Pitino of knowing any improper recruiting existed during his time at Louisville.

According to a report from CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander, the video was played as government witness Marty Blazer was directly examined by the prosecution. Blazer was among two who met with Dawkins in New York on a yacht in 2017 when the video was recorded. Blazer will continue to take the stand when the trial resumes as the defense will get to question him later this week.

“And the the thing with (former Arizona assistant) Book (Richardson), Arizona is like, Sean Miller has to know everything that’s going on,” Dawkins said on the FBI’s video. “I can call Sean and have a conversation like, this is what’s going on. Like, this is what’s needing to be done.”

Dawkins also paraphrased Miller speaking about Ayton in the video by saying, “‘I’m taking care of everything myself. I wanna bring you in. I’ll turn everything over to you.'”

Blazer’s testimony then backed up Dawkins’ notion that Miller cheated to get Ayton.

“I understood him to mean that Sean Miller was talking about inappropriate things with recruiting, paying the money and those sorts of things,” Blazer said during testimony. “Sean Miller was taking care of everything for Deandre Ayton and his family.”

This is the first time Miller has been directly named in court since initial ESPN reports in February 2018 tied him to allegedly cheating to get Ayton. While Dawkins is merely speculating that Miller is cheating, the under-oath testimony of Blazer adds another element to what Dawkins is claiming. Dawkins’ theory, and Blazer’s testimony, still doesn’t directly provide proof of Miller, or Arizona, cheating to land Ayton. It’s merely speculative at this point. But it lends more credibility to the argument that it could have happened and will be a subplot to watch as the trial continues.

It’ll be interesting to see if Miller is also asked to testify in court as defense attorney Steve Haney said Wednesday that he will ask the judge to reconsider the initial ruling that Miller won’t be apart of the trial. If he were to testify, Miller wouldn’t be on federal trial for any wrongdoing, but Arizona and the NCAA would be interested in what he has to say if asked about any of these implications under oath.

Dawkins also gave his thoughts on fired Louisville head coach Rick Pitino — as he appeared to back up Pitino’s claim that he didn’t know about cheating going on to help land Brian Bowen. Pitino was ousted from the Cardinals before the 2017-18 season as he remains in an ongoing lawsuit with the school over the rest of his lucrative contract.

“Rick Pitino may be the only person who doesn’t know what’s going on” when it came to what was happening in his program,” Dawkins said.

“Rick has no clue what’s going on at his school. Most of the bigger guys, they know,” he continued.

The NCAA will likely continue to investigate Louisville regardless of what Dawkins says in this trial, but Pitino and his team will undoubtedly try to use this claim from Dawkins to help their case against the school to claim the rest of his contract.

According to The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach, during Wednesday’s testimony a screenshot of a text from Dawkins that said, “these are my guys” listed names that included Arizona’s Sean Miller and Book Richardson, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Kenny Johnson and Jordan Fair, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Dwayne Stephens and Dane Fife, LSU’s Will Wade and Greg Heiar, N.C. State’s Kevin Keatts and UNLV’s Marvin Menzies.

There is no direct evidence that Dawkins actually spoke to all of these people as that evidence has not been presented in court yet. It’s also important to remember that Dawkins did not know he was being recorded during this meeting as he’s attempting to land business on a yacht. It’s entirely plausible that he name-dropped high-profile coaches and linked assistants he spoke to with their bosses in order to impress who he was speaking with.

But now that those names have been listed during the actual corruption trial, it’ll be fascinating to see what else plays out as Blazer’s testimony likely continues through the week.