Defense attorneys in a federal criminal case involving pay-for-play schemes and other corruption in college basketball tried introducing into evidence on Tuesday wiretap recordings suggesting LSU coach Will Wade and Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend were prepared to offer improper benefits to high-profile recruits and their families.
The defense contends that Townsend discussed the financial requests of a recruit’s family during a phone call with one of the defendants in the Adidas college basketball corruption trial.
Mark C. Moore, one of defendant and former Adidas employee Merl Code’s attorneys, unsuccessfully tried to introduce a recording of a phone conversation between Townsend and Code into evidence. Moore told U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan that recruit Zion Williamson of Spartanburg, S.C., was the subject of the call.
Moore read from a transcript of the call to Kaplan without the jury present in the federal courtroom in New York.
“Hey, but between me and you, you know, he asked about some stuff, you know?” Townsend said, according to Moore. “And I said, ‘Well, we’ll talk about that (when) you decide.’
“And then Code says: ‘I know what he’s asking for. This is the player’s father. He’s asking for opportunities from an occupational (perspective). He’s asking for money in the pocket. And he’s asking for housing for him and the family.’
“And they go on to talk. And Mr. Townsend says: ‘So, I’ve got to just try to work and figure out a way. Because if that’s what it takes to get him for 10 months, we’re going to have to do it some way.’ “
Williamson committed to play for Duke on Jan. 20, after also considering Clemson, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina. He is a Blue Devils freshman this season.
Former Adidas executive James Gatto, Code and another defendant are accused of wire fraud conspiracy by paying the families of top basketball recruits, which would render them ineligible under NCAA rules and defraud the schools.
Casey Donnelly, one of Gatto’s attorneys, also tried to introduce a wiretap recording of a telephone call between Wade and defendant Christian Dawkins, a former runner for NBA agent Andy Miller.
According to court records, the FBI monitored one of Dawkins’ cellphones between June 19, 2017, and Sept. 15, 2017.
Donnelly read from a transcript, stating Dawkins called Wade and inquired about LSU’s interest in 2019 recruit Balsa Koprivica, a 7-foot center from Montverde, Fla.
Wade reportedly responded to Dawkins’ question regarding whether he wanted to sign Koprivica: “Here’s my thing: I can get you what you need, but it’s got to work.”
Koprivica tweeted on June 21, 2017: “Blessed to say I have received an offer from LSU.”
“This call is evidence that Division I coaches do make these offers to Christian,” Donnelly told Kaplan.
Kaplan wouldn’t allow the call into evidence, and it wasn’t played to the jury.
Wade, 35, produced an 18-15 record in 2017-18, his first season at LSU.
—Field Level Media