Jim Dey | Hoops indictment adds new details, schools to list

Jim Dey | Hoops indictment adds new details, schools to list

"His visit came out of nowhere, and the whole process of recruiting him was shorter than most. But that was all of the time Class of 2018, five-star big man Silvio De Sousa needed to discover that Kansas was the right place for him."

That's how the Lawrence Journal-World reported the surprise announcement last August that high school basketball star Silvio De Sousa would become a Jayhawk.

A revised federal indictment issued last week by a New York grand jury added more charges and more details — all of them tawdry — to the De Sousa recruitment, a part of an ongoing melodrama that has shaken the college sports landscape.

In doing so, federal prosecutors added two more major college programs — Kansas and North Carolina State — to the four that were identified in a lengthy indictment issued last September.

It alleges prominent sports gear company Adidas, as well as its representatives and sports agents, worked with coaches to steer great players to high-profile college programs affiliated with Adidas with the expectation they would sign with Adidas after turning professional.

The September indictment charged 10 people with a variety of offenses.

In addition to naming four assistant coaches at Louisville, the University of Southern California, Arizona and Auburn, the indictment alleges James Gatto, a top executive with Adidas, oversaw the operation.

Also implicated, but not specifically named, in the indictment was Rick Pitino, the hugely successful Louisville head coach who was immediately dismissed along with his athletic director.

At the same time, the indictment suggested that Gatto was competing with other shoe companies affiliated with other major college basketball programs.

The indictment issued this week lays the groundwork for informed speculation that one of those business competitors is Under Armour and another of those programs is Maryland, a Big Ten school.

That's because De Sousa was expected to attend Maryland before his sudden switch to Kansas.

The indictments shine a light on the dark underside of college sports, where major programs frequently form affiliations with companies that sell sports gear — Nike, Adidas, Under Armour — and sports agents seek commitments to represent prospective professional star athletes while the athletes are still in high school.

The University of Illinois, for example, is a Nike school.

The indictment does not name any additional defendants. But it does add additional charges — wire fraud — to previously named defendants — Gatto and his associates Merl Code and Christian Dawkins.

It also described the illegal recruitments of three players, one to North Carolina State and two to Kansas.

The players involved have been identified in media accounts as Dennis Smith Jr., a 2016 N.C. State recruit who turned pro after his freshman year.

The other two are De Sousa, who played for the Jayhawks this past season, and Billy Preston, another top recruit who did not play at Kansas because of an NCAA investigation into a suspicious vehicle purchase.

The indictment alleges that Gatto "conspired to illicitly funnel" $40,000 to Parent-1, presumably Smith's mother or father "to secure and maintain" Smith's commitment to N.C. State and sign with Adidas after turning pro.

The indictment alleges the payment occurred after an unidentified N.C. State coach (Coach-4) told one of Gatto's associates that Smith "was not happy with his selection" of N.C. State and "was considering decommitting."

The indictment alleges that Gatto gave Coach 4 the money with the intention Coach 4 "would in turn deliver it to Parent-1."

In the case of Preston and Kansas, the indictment alleges Gatto paid through an intermediary "at least $90,000" to Parent 3 — Preston's mother — "shortly after (Preston). ...unofficially committed to attend the University of Kansas." Two of those cash payments — $30,000 and $27,500 — were delivered to Preston's mother during meetings in hotel rooms in New York City and Las Vegas.

In De Sousa's case, circumstances were different. Adidas agreed to pay De Sousa's guardian an unidentified sum — at least $20,000 — to "repay illicit payments De Sousa's guardian" received for steering De Sousa "to a university sponsored by a rival athletic company," presumably Under Armour.

The prosecution theory is that those charged conspired to defraud the NCAA and the universities involved by engaging in practices at odds with NCAA rules, violations of which include serious sanctions.

Defense lawyers have challenged the legitimacy of that interpretation of federal law, and that issue will be subjected to serious scrutiny during the pretrial process. A tentative trial date has been set for Oct. 1

But those involved in what surely is a wide-ranging conspiracy are under tremendous pressure to cooperate with investigators, and a reading of the indictment indicates some already are, including one of Gatto's omnipresent bagmen — T.J. Gassnola, identified as CC-3 in the indictment.

In addition to the criminal charges that have been filed, the new indictment requests a court order that the defendants forfeit assets equivalent to "any of the above-described forfeitable property, as a result of any act or omission of the defendants."

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached by email at jdey@news-gazette.com or by phone at 217-351-5369.