adidas cheap College basketball scandal implicates Orlando prep star
The FBI’s crackdown on college basketball corruption reverberated from Louisville to Orlando on Wednesday.
Cardinals coach Rick Pitino was effectively fired after his school acknowledged its part of the federal bribery investigation, former Edgewater guard Anfernee Simons decommitted from Louisville and Orlando Christian Prep star Nassir Little was linked to the growing scandal.
According to the FBI, an unnamed player set an asking price of $150,000 if schools wanted to secure his services. 5 prospect in the Class of 2018.
Officials at OCP did not return requests for comment on Wednesday. Little, a 6 foot 7 forward, helped the Warriors win the Class 3A state championship in March.
If the allegations against him are proven, Little would lose his eligibility and all games he played after the violation would be forfeited.
Little also played for the Orlando based 1 Family Hoops travel team. Its director, Jonathan Brad Augustine, was one of 10 men charged Tuesday with using hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence recruits into signing with certain schools, agents and shoe sponsors.
The FBI announced the indictments in New York following a three year investigation. The aftershocks were centered Wednesday on Louisville, where Pitino was put on unpaid administrative leave and is expected to be fired.
Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich was placed on paid administrative leave and is also expected to be fired.
Simons, an All Area senior last season, committed to Louisville last November. He planned to play a prep school season for IMG Academy of Bradenton this year and sign with Louisville’s Class of 2018.
“Due to the recent events that have taken place, my family and I have decided it’s in my best interest to de commit from the University of Louisville,” Simons wrote in a message posted to his Twitter account. “I will be reopening my recruitment. This was a very tough decision to make and I am deeply sadden by This. I appreciate all of the support from Louisville fans.”
The FBI’s allegations said at least three top recruits were promised payments of up to $150,000 to attend universities sponsored by Adidas. Among those indicted were former NBA agent Christian Dawkins and Adidas employees James Gatto and Merl Code.
The universities weren’t specifically named, but the FBI descriptions of left no doubt they include Louisville and the University of Miami. Players were also not named, but the Palm Beach Post and Miami Herald reported “Player 12” on the indictment is believed to be Little.
Sources told the Orlando Sentinel that Little lived with a 1 Family coach after moving from the Jacksonville area and transferring from Oakleaf High School of Orange Park to OCP for the 2016 17 school year.
He’d announced a final five list of college options in August and it included two of the schools on the affidavit: Miami and Arizona. North Carolina, Duke and Georgia Tech were the other schools on Little’s list.
According to the indictment, the FBI wiretapped phone calls between Aug. 9 and 12 in which Dawkins told Code that Augustine said a Miami assistant coach “knows everything” and they could “start the process” of funneling payments to Player 12.
Gatto told Code he should “try to get it to a 100,” meaning $100,000. Code said he was not sure “they’ll take that much less but I can take it down at least twenty five,” meaning $25,000.
On another call, Code said another university affiliated with a different shoe company was offering $150,000 and “we’re trying to keep him from going to one of their schools.”
That school is believed to be Arizona. Gatto asked if the payments from Adidas could be pushed back to 2018. “I just don’t know if I can do anything in ’17,” he said.
On an Aug. 12 call, Code and Gatto discussed the $150,000 asking price that had been set by Player 12. Code said that if Adidas waited until 2018 to commit the money, “by that point that number might be 200.”
That would be $200,000.
After winning the state title with OCP, Little’s stock soared this summer as he starred for 1 Family’s 17 and under team.
He was reportedly going to visit Arizona soon, but Wildcats assistant coach Book Richardson was one of the four assistant coaches indicted on Tuesday. Little tweeted that he was re opening his recruitment process, but he deleted the tweet minutes later.
The only current tweet he posted read, “They hating like I didn’t work for it.”
Florida High School Athletic Association bylaws state that if an athlete accepts money or other compensation, he or she would be immediately ineligible for 365 days.
In order to be ineligible, however, the athlete must physically receive the money and/or gift.
Another highly touted Orlando player was also considering Louisville before Tuesday’s announcement. Balsa Koprivica, a 7 foot junior, had the Cardinals near the top of his list.
“I think Balsa was shocked. I know I was,” said Windermere Prep coach Ben Wilson. “He was never committed to Louisville, but they were really high on him. Obviously we just learned about all of this yesterday, but I’m pretty positive Balsa won’t be considering [Louisville] moving forward.