Deandre Ayton Named in College Basketball Corruption Trial, Family Friend Given $15,000

AAU coach T.J. Gassnola said he paid the families of Ayton, Kansas's Billy Preston, Kansas's Silvio De Sousa, Louisville's Brian Bowen and NC State's Dennis Smith.
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Former Arizona center Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, was named Wednesday in the federal trial concerning alleged corruption and fraud in college basketball, according to multiple reporters. AAU coach T.J. Gassnola testified that he provided payments to the players and families of Ayton and four other players.

The other athletes are Billy Preston (who withdrew from Kansas last season without playing in a game for the Jayhawks), Silvio De Sousa (currently on Kansas's roster), Brian Bowen (who signed with Louisville, left in November and landed at South Carolina where he never became eligible) and Dennis Smith (whom the Mavericks made the No. 9 pick in 2017 after one season at NC State).

Gassnola testified on Thursday that he paid a family friend of Ayton $15,000 to begin a relationship between Ayton and Adidas, per Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel. Ayton played in one Adidas camp event before signing with Arizona, a Nike school. Ayton signed with Puma after graduation.

Gassnola also testified Thursday that he paid Preston's mother $89,000 over the course of one year but was "adamant" that no one on Kansas's coaching staff knew about the payments, per Wetzel. Kansas discovered wire transfers from Gassnola to Preston's mother, Nichelle Player, during an investigation into an on-campus car accident involving Preston. Player lied to Kansas and said she and Gassnola were in an intimate relationship to try and make the payments legal in the eyes of the NCAA.

The coach also clarified his involvement with De Sousa, testifying that a Maryland booster paid De Sousa's guardian $60,000 during recruitment. The money had to be paid back for DeSousa to attend Kansas, which is when Gassnola offered $20,000 to help. He never made the payment, but he did pay De Sousa's guardian $2,500 in a separate situation.

Earlier this year, Gassnola agreed to plead guilty to a wire fraud conspiracy charge stemming from his work with Adidas to persuade recruits, and he agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors, meaning he turned over any emails, texts and other documents.

According to CBS Sports's Matt Norlander, Gassnola testified to conspiring with former Adidas executive Jim Gatto, former Adidas employee Merl Code and Christian Dawkins to conceal payments from schools and the NCAA. When asked how he got money from Adidas, Gassnola said to "Ask Jimmy" referring to Gatto.

Gassnola also testified that he helped orchestrate a payment of $25,000 to Bowen's family while Bowen was in high school. Gassnola additionally said he sent Brian Bowen Sr. $7,000 in cash stuffed into a magazine and then in an envelope. 

Brian Bowen Sr. took the stand Tuesday, testifying that he didn't tell his son or his son's mother of the under-the-table money he received from Adidas and Louisville. 

Last week, testimony from Bowen Sr. revealed that several prominent basketball schools, including but not limited to Louisville, had offered him significant sums of money as bribes for his son's commitment to their programs. The lawyer for former Adidas executive Jim Gatto said at the trial that evidence would prove that Oregon offered "an astronomical amount of money" to Bowen's family.

Bowen Sr. is testifying in exchange for immunity as the government looks to convict Dawkins, Gatto and Code of defrauding universities by paying players without the school's knowledge.

Ayton will open his NBA career against the Mavericks on Oct. 17.