Shortly after Class of 2018 recruit Nassir Little committed to North Carolina tonight, he denied accusations by an Adidas representative in last week’s FBI documents that he was offered $150,000 by Arizona or any other school.
Little, a 6’6″ small forward, committed to the Tar Heels over Duke. He and his father, Harold Little, have denied any wrongdoing by the schools during the recruiting process.
”For me, I just didn’t want to be mixed in a situation where any of the accusations seemed like it was true because it wasn’t,” Nassir Little told ESPN on Wednesday. “Every school I was considering was because I had a genuine interest in them. North Carolina had been the school I wanted, regardless. I just block it out. They can say they want. I just focus on myself, and do what my heart desires.”
Harold Little tweeted this on Sunday:
Sean Miller did not offer Nassir any Money. Please stop promoting that false narrative…please!
Last Tuesday, federal prosecutors in New York announced charges of fraud against 10 people involved in college basketball, including Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson. The three-year FBI probe focused on coaches being paid tens of thousands of dollars to steer NBA-bound players toward sports agents, financial advisers and apparel companies.
In the document, Adidas official Merl Code was quoted as saying in an FBI phone wiretap with Adidas head of global sports marketing James Gatto that Arizona offered a recruit — who has been reported by various media outlets to be Little — $150,000 to get him to attend Arizona.
Code stated to Gatto, “We’re trying to keep him from going to one of their (rival apparel company’s) schools.” Arizona’s program is affiliated with Nike.
Arizona officials are preparing to take the stance that the alleged offer to Nassir Little from its program is false without basis of proof, according to a knowledgeable source.
The comment by Code to Gatto in reference to the $150,000 allegedly offered to Nassir Little was made without truth behind it, only to get Gatto to try to increase Adidas’ offer to that amount, the source said.
Arizona coach Sean Miller said Tuesday in a statement issued by the school that he was “devastated” to learn about the FBI probe that implicated Richardson, a longtime assistant, in bribe and fraud charges. Arizona president Robert Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke each provided supportive prepared statements yesterday of Miller.
“Based on the facts that we know at this time,” Robbins said in his letter, “we support coach Miller and intend to provide him with all of the tools necessary to meet our goals and expectations.”
The source, requesting to comment on the condition of anonymity, indicated Arizona is prepared to keep Miller as coach instead of using the guilt-by-association stance that Louisville took placing coach Rick Pitino on administration leave with the intention to terminate his job.
The prosecutors’ allegations against Louisville include payments of $100,000 from Adidas to the family of an unnamed player, who was later identified in media reports as Brian Bowen, a five-star guard/forward who signed with Louisville on June 5.
Prosecutors indicated sports agent Christian Dawkins told the Adidas officials that he funneled the money to the player’s family at the request of a Louisville coach.
In June, the NCAA announced that it suspended Pitino for the first five games of ACC play this season and ordered the program to forfeit what could be dozens of victories after it was revealed that a former director of basketball operations had provided strippers and prostitutes to players and recruits in a campus dormitory over several years.
Miller has not been implicated in an NCAA probe in his 14-year head coaching career.
“As the head basketball coach at the University of Arizona, I recognize my responsibility is not only to establish a culture of success on the basketball court and in the classroom, but as important, to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance,” Miller stated. “To the best of my ability, I have worked to demonstrate this over the past eight years and will continue to do so as we move forward.”
The $20,000 alleged to be taken by Richardson from agents in the FBI probe — with the intent to offer some of it to a recruit’s family — and Dawkins’ statement in the documents that a current Arizona player “already received payments” are matters that are still not resolved for Arizona’s program.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.