Arizona, USC & Schools Linked To FBI Probe Are Thriving On Recruiting Trail

La Lumiere's Brian Bowen Basking In Big Wins, Heavy Recruitment

Take one look at the recruiting rankings for the class of 2019 and you might be a little surprised.

USC and Louisville are ranked first and second, according to the 247Sports "2019 Basketball Team Rankings."

Arizona is No. 8, Auburn is No. 12, and Oklahoma State is No. 17.

What do all of those schools have in common?

They were all swept up in the FBI probe into bribery in college basketball that resulted in the arrests a year ago of 10 men, including assistant coaches from Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State, and USC. Louisville coach Rick Pitino ended up getting fired a year ago in the wake of the pay-for-play scheme involving Adidas and Brian Bowen Sr.

A year after the arrests, Bowen Sr. appeared in federal court on Thursday, and in an explosive and emotional scene said that Christian Dawkins, one of three defendants in the case, told him Arizona, Oklahoma State, Creighton, and Texas all offered cash and/or other perks in return for his son's commitment to their schools.

Despite all this, recruiting is thriving for many of the schools caught up in the scandal.

Under Andy Enfield, USC has a five-man recruiting class ranked No. 1 in 2019, while Louisville, led by first-year coach Chris Mack, has its own five-man class ranked No. 2. The Cardinals are also strongly in the mix for 6-foot-10 Lawrence Woodmere (NY) big man Aidan Igiehon, who canceled an official visit to St. John's this weekend and is strongly considering Louisville (along with Oregon).

Arizona, meantime, landed elite point guard Nico Mannion last month, and on Thursday secured a pledge from top-10 wing Josh Green of Australia. For their Red/Blue Game next weekend, Sean Miller and company will also host Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, a power forward who plays with Green at IMG Academy (FL).



"When you look at Arizona's case, the [trial] of the assistant coaches isn't going to start until April, so that's way off in the distance," said longtime New York-based recruiting expert Tom Konchalski, who has attended several days of the current trial. "And who knows how long that will take? And a lot of the kids and their families just don't care.

"You know why? Because they're not thinking about sending them to a nurturing college situation, where they're going to be there for four years. This is with the elite players. This is going to be a one-year way station on the way to the NBA. I think that has a lot to do with it. So they're just looking for the right fit to get their son, or get themselves, to get in the NBA as quickly possible. It's more that than anything else."

Chris Williams of the Adidas-sponsored Game Elite AAU program has had several of his players commit this fall, including guard Josh Nickelberry to Louisville and forward Jaylin Williams to Auburn. (He also coached current Kentucky freshman Ashton Hagans.)

"Well, with the whole Louisville thing, Mack and Mike Pegues were doing a great job with Josh and Jaylin prior to going to Louisville," Williams said, referring to Mack's tenure at Xavier. "So once they went to Louisville, they just continued that relationship with Josh and Jaylin.

"Now Jaylin just decided that coach Bruce [Pearl of Auburn] has been in there doing his work since he was in the ninth grade recruiting Jaylin and developing that relationship, so Jaylin thought that was a better fit for him than Louisville. And Josh thought vice versa, as far as Louisville being the best fit. Regardless of everything else, those relationships were built prior to that."

Mack, hired after Pitino was fired and interim coach David Padgett was not brought back, has a reputation as a tremendous coach who does things the right way.

"It's a different regime and none of their poeple have been indicted," Konchalski said of the new Louisville staff.

Still, the drip-drip of revelations from the trial continues to impact Louisville, Arizona, and the other schools.

On Thursday, prosecutors alleged that former Louisville associate head coach Kenny Johnson (now at La Salle) paid Bowen Sr. $1,300, while former assistant Jordan Fair reportedly gave another unnamed prospect $900.

This was the first time Louisville's coaches were directly linked to payments in the Adidas scheme to funnel players to the school.

Pitino told the Courier Journal he was "dumbfounded and devastated" by the Johnson allegation.

"He looked me square in the eye and said he did nothing wrong," Pitino said. "I hope it's not true."

Meantime, as the Courier-Journal wrote, "the NCAA cannot investigate the allegations until the FBI completes its investigation, so Johnson and Fair have been neither cleared nor condemned by the NCAA."

Prior to this revelation, Williams said Louisville officials assured Nickelberry's family that the school was not facing future penalties.

"They assured us that obviously they were still in the news and all that, but they were in good standing," Williams said.

As for Arizona, Bowen Sr. on Thursday said that Dawkins relayed to him that former assistant Joe Pasternack was offering "50 grand" for Bowen Jr. to pick the school. He also said Dawkins told him Oklahoma State was offering "$150,000 cash," plus money for a car and a house. He said Creighton "would pay like $100,000 and a lucrative job" and Texas "would help me with housing."

There has been no proof provided that these offers were actually made and it may well have been that Dawkins, a pathological BS-er, was making some of the offers up to drive up the price on Bowen.



Bowen Sr. is due back on the stand when the trial resumes Tuesday, so there may be more fireworks forthcoming.

In the meantime, Arizona, USC, Louisville, Auburn, and Oklahoma State continue to chug along in the recruiting race.

Asked if recruits were primarily concerned with finding the best situation for themselves, regardless of all this outside noise, Williams said, "Correct and the relationship that they have with that coach or assistant coach, or whatever the case may be."


Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who runs ZAGSBLOG.com and contributes to The New York Times. Follow Adam on Twitter.

Defense Attorneys In Adidas Trial Say Nike, Under Armour Paying Players Too

NEW YORK — The fact that much of the focus in the Adidas college basketball trial has centered on Adidas schools should come as no surprise.

EuroLeague Home-Court Advantage: Panathinaikos & Olympiacos Lead The Way

Fall Is For Basketball

Whether it’s due to the roaring of the crowd, reduced travel time, or shooting on familiar rims, home court advantage has always been said to play a major role in sports. There’s a reason teams in the NBA fight all season long to try and get a high seed and the home-court advantage that comes with it. But how much does a team playing at home matter in Europe? As the EuroLeague 2018-19 season gets geared up to start later this week, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at the 2017-18 season to see which teams performed most differently at home vs on the road.

The Euro Step: Mike James Is Cool, & Other EuroLeague Round 1 Notes

Fall Is For Basketball

It was a lopsided week overall, with six of the eight games decided by double-digits. Sergio Llull and the defending champs Real Madrid dropped 109 on Darussafaka, while fellow title contenders CSKA, Fenerbahce, and Olympiacos rolled to 20-plus point wins.

10 Things You Need To Know About The Adidas Basketball Trial

NEW YORK — I've been embedded in the Adidas college basketball bribery trial — aka "U.S. vs. Gatto" — for the last two weeks, covering the proceedings for a number of newspapers and outlets nationwide.

The Kerfuffle, Ep. 3: Kevin Garnett In Iowa, The 76ers, & The NBA Beginning

After months and months of pretending that we care about baseball and football and soccer, we no longer have to pretend: The NBA is here. (As well as the EuroLeague, by the way, and we mean literally right here on FloHoops.)

EuroLeague 2018-19 Awards Predictions: Kyle Hines Goes For The 3-Peat On D

With the EuroLeague season tipping off this Thursday, it’s time to bust out the crystal ball.

The Los Angeles Lakers Will Never Be Boring

Duh. 

How NCAA & EuroLeague Statistics Translate To The NBA, & What We Can Learn

A few weeks ago, we took a look at how well EuroLeague stats translated to the NBA, finding there to be a surprisingly strong relationship between success in the EuroLeague and success in the NBA across a player’s first two seasons. This was particularly the case with stats like three-point shooting, field goal percentage, rebounding, and block rates. Today, we will take a look at those prospects’ NCAA counterparts to compare how well stats in college translate to success in the NBA. 

Triple Crown Sports, FloSports Partner To Live Stream Youth, College Events

FORT COLLINS, CO – Today, Triple Crown Sports announced a partnership with FloSports, the innovator in live digital sports and original content, to provide live and on-demand coverage of multiple TCS events in youth fastpitch and college softball on FloSoftball.com, as well as men’s and women’s college basketball on FloHoops.com.