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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.

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.

Washington’s Jaylen Nowell declares for NBA draft

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Washington sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell is entering the 2019 NBA Draft, he announced on Sunday night.

The 6-foot-4 Nowell was a standout player for the Huskies the past two years as he averaged 16.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game as a sophomore. Shooting 50 percent from the floor and 44 percent from three-point range, Nowell is an intriguing scoring guard if he can shoot well from the perimeter.

The Huskies claimed the Pac-12 regular season title this season as they advanced to the NCAA tournament’s Round of 32 before falling to North Carolina. Nowell leaving means Washington likely has to replace its top four scorers since the other three behind Nowell are all seniors.

 

Cal hires Mark Fox as new head coach

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Cal has hired former Georgia coach Mark Fox as new head coach, the school announced on Friday.

Replacing Wyking Jones, who was fired after two seasons, Fox has taken teams to the NCAA tournament five times. With a 286–176 career record, Fox has a winning track record throughout his 14 years of coaching. But he’ll have to do a better job of making the NCAA tournament after some recent struggles. While Fox did a good job of staying competitive and over .500 with the Bulldogs, they program only made two NCAA appearances in nine seasons.

The Golden Bears struggled to an 8-23 record and 3-15 mark in the Pac-12 as they finished in last place in 2018-19. Fox has succeeded at Nevada and also been an assistant at Washington, so he knows a bit about recruiting out West and being in the Pac-12.

Buffalo routs No. 11 seed Arizona State

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Balanced No. 6 seed Buffalo advanced to the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament for the second straight year with a convincing 91-74 win over No. 11 seed Arizona State in a first-round matchup in Tulsa on Friday

Facing Bobby Hurley, their former head coach before he left for the Sun Devils four years ago, the Bulls knocked out a Pac-12 opponent in the first round for the second straight year. This time feels much different than last season’s upset win over No. 4 seed Arizona and Deandre Ayton.

Buffalo (32-3) had four double-figure scorers during a dominant win on Friday as they continue to look like the top-25 team they’ve been for most of the season. Jeremy Harris (21 points, 10 rebounds) and Nick Perkins (21 points, 10 rebounds) both finished with double-doubles for the Bulls while C.J. Massinburg (18 points) and Jayvon Graves (13 points) also finished in double-figures. The Bulls dominated on the glass as they won 39-25 on the boards as they had 11 offensive rebounds. Bench production was also important for Buffalo as they had 33 bench points on Friday.

Arizona State (23-11) knocked out St. John’s in a First Four game on Wednesday night as they shot the ball poorly from the perimeter on Friday. The Sun Devils didn’t knock down a three-pointer until the second half as they finished a dismal 3-for-22 shooting from distance. Zylan Cheatham was one of the few bright spots for the Sun Devils as he finished with 22 points while big man Romello White chipped in 12 points. After scoring 21 points in the win on Wednesday, freshman and leading scorer Luguentz Dort struggled to get going as he had 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting.

Buffalo advances to face No. 3 seed Texas Tech on Sunday in Tulsa as the Bulls will try to maintain their great offense against the No. 1 defense in the country. Besides for being a fun matchup of mid-major against Big 12 champion, Buffalo will also have its hands full trying to stop Big 12 Player of the Year Jarrett Culver, as he came up with a huge game on Friday as Texas Tech knocked out Northern Kentucky.

Arizona State races past St. John’s

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Arizona State raced out to an early lead and never trailed as they advanced past St. John’s with a 74-65 win on Wednesday night during an NCAA tournament First Four game in Dayton.

Jumping out to a double-digit lead 10 minutes into the game, the Sun Devils were barely threatened until late in the second half as the Red Storm had a disjointed night on offense. St. John’s had some early momentum in the second half during an 8-0 burst when the Arizona State lead was cut to eight points. The Sun Devils quickly pushed the lead back to double-digits with another run. With under five minutes left, St. John’s made a final push to cut the Arizona State lead to seven but they never made it over the hump to get fully back into the game.

Freshman Luguentz Dort was the standout for Arizona State on Wednesday as he finished with 21 points. Although Dort experienced a scary fall early in the second half, he shook off the hard landing to return. Dort’s health will be something to monitor for the next round as he’s clearly the best offensive weapon for the Sun Devils. Forward Zylan Cheatham (14 points) was the only other double-figure scorer for the Sun Devils on Wednesday as Arizona State didn’t play a particularly crisp game on offense.

Although Arizona State (23-10) led the entire game, they had 21 turnovers and some sloppy possessions that they’ll need to clean up before Friday’s first-round matchup with Buffalo. Arizona State advances to play the No. 6 seed Bulls on Friday in a West Region game in Tulsa. The matchup will feature Sun Devils head coach Bobby Hurley going against his former team as he left Buffalo four seasons ago to take the job in Tempe. Hurley will also be facing a head coach, Nate Oats, that he hired as an assistant coach at Buffalo. Wednesday’s win for the Sun Devils also marks the first NCAA tournament win for Arizona State since 2009 when they beat Temple in the first round.

St. John’s (21-13) never found a rhythm on offense as they shot 32 percent (22-for-69) from the field and 26 percent (8-for-31) from three-point range. Junior guard Shamorie Ponds (25 points, four assists) and guard L.J. Figueroa (19 points) were two of the only bright spots for the Red Storm as St. John’s turned the ball over 16 times.

Starting the 2018-19 season with a 12-0 record, St. John’s finished the year 9-13 as they plummeted once Big East play started. After such a promising start to the season, many predicted that St. John’s would be a factor in the Big East race.

Instead, St. John’s slipped to the point of barely making the Field of 68 as they were the last at-large team let into the field. Losing in a First Four game after being a top-25 team only two months ago is a very disappointing ending to what looked like a comeback season for this program. The Red Storm have not won an NCAA tournament game since 2000 as they’ve dropped five straight in the Big Dance.