Wit­ness gave cash to re­cruit through as­sis­tant

For­mer Adi­das con­sul­tant con­tin­ues drop­ping no­table names on stand

The Star Democrat - - SPORTS -

NEW YORK (AP) — A gov­ern­ment wit­ness at a col­lege bas­ket­ball cor­rup­tion trial tes­ti­fied Thurs­day he made a se­cret $40,000 pay­ment to the in­ner cir­cle of a North Carolina State re­cruit through an as­sis­tant coach at the school.

Tes­ti­fy­ing in fed­eral court in Man­hat­tan, self-de­scribed re­cruit­ment fa­cil­i­ta­tor Thomas “T.J.” Gass­nola told a jury he de­liv­ered the money in cash to the coach, Or­lando Early, on a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2015. He said the coach told him he was go­ing to give it to a per­sonal trainer for highly-touted point guard Den­nis Smith Jr. as way to get it to Smith’s fam­ily.

Busi­ness man­ager Chris­tian Dawkins, for­mer am­a­teur coach Merl Code and for­mer Adi­das ex­ec­u­tive James Gatto have pleaded not guilty to de­fraud­ing var­i­ous col­leges by con­ceal­ing the use of un­der-the-ta­ble pay­ments of up to $100,000 from Adi­das in ex­change for com­mit­ments to pro­grams that were seen as a path to big NBA pay­days. Their lawyers haven’t dis­puted pay­ments were ar­ranged in vi­o­la­tion of NCAA rules, but they ar­gue the schools never suf­fered any harm.

Gass­nola, 46, a for­mer Adi­das con­sul­tant who has pleaded guilty, con­tin­ued to drop some no­table names in bas­ket­ball dur­ing his sec­ond day on the wit­ness stand.

He said that while work­ing un­der the di­rec­tion of Gatto, he paid out $15,000 in cash in 2015 to try to lure De­An­dre Ay­ton to an Adi­das school only to see him sign with Nike-spon­sored Ari­zona. Ay­ton at­tended Ari­zona for his fresh­man sea­son be­fore be­ing drafted by the Phoenix Suns.

He also de­scribed how he texted then-Louisville head coach Rick Pitino in a panic in Septem­ber 2017 when he learned there was an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the pay­ments made to sev­eral play­ers, in­clud­ing Louisville re­cruit Brian Bowen Jr.

“I was just look­ing for in­for­ma­tion, and I in­stinc­tively reached out to him,” the wit­ness said.

There’s no ev­i­dence that Pitino re­sponded to the text. The leg­endary coach was never ac­cused of a crime but was fired amid the fall­out.

Asked Thurs­day about the tes­ti­mony about North Carolina State, Ath­letic Di­rec­tor Deb­bie Yow said in state­ment, “If any for­mer em­ployee was in­volved, they knew they were break­ing the rules and chose to keep it hid­den.”

Early did not re­spond to a text mes­sage from the AP on Thurs­day. North Carolina State an­nounced in 2017 that both he and head coach Mark Got­tfried were leav­ing the pro­gram months be­fore the cor­rup­tion case be­came pub­lic.

Smith played one year at N.C. State. He’s now in the NBA play­ing for the Dal­las Mav­er­icks.

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