NEW YORK — Arizona-related testimony and wiretapped conversations dominated the federal college basketball corruption trial Monday, with former assistant coach Book Richardson claiming that paying players caused him financial trouble and would-be agent Christian Dawkins saying head coach Sean Miller “fronted a deal” for a player.
Richardson did not testify, but his voice was played on secretly recorded conversations that also mentioned former UA targets Jahvon Quinerly and Naz Reid and three players — Rawle Alkins, Allonzo Trier and Deandre Ayton — who made up the core of Arizona’s 2017-18 Pac-12 championship team.
“You’re going to get Rawle Alkins — he’s going to be a first-rounder,” Richardson, the former UA assistant, tells Dawkins and co-conspirator Munish Sood in one video that was shown to jurors on Monday. “Allonzo Trier, you should get him. Deandre Ayton, we’re working on him.”
Prosecutors say Dawkins and Sood paid assistant coaches, including Richardson, in exchange for those coaches funneling players to the agent and financial planner for professional representation. Dawkins and Adidas rep Merl Code are on trial for felony bribery.
On a recorded phone call in June 2017, Dawkins tells Sood that Miller “fronted that deal” for an unnamed player. The player was later identified by several media outlets as Ayton.
In a separate video, shown in court last week, Dawkins boasted that Miller told him he was “taking care of everything myself” with regards to Ayton. Dawkins also said Miller told him he wanted to bring in Dawkins and “would turn over everything to you.”
Government witness Marty Blazer was asked on the witness stand last week what Dawkins meant by Miller taking care of everything.
“I understood that to mean (Miller) had been taking care of payments to Deandre Ayton,” Blazer testified. “Sean Miller was taking care of everything for Deandre Ayton and his family.”
ESPN reported in February 2018 that Miller and Dawkins discussed a $100,000 payment to Ayton, a report that the longtime UA coach has vehemently denied. Miller said then he had never paid a player or his family member or representative to attend Arizona, and that he never will.
Monday’s proceedings focused mostly on Richardson, who was arrested in September 2017, suspended by the UA shortly thereafter and fired in January 2018. Jurors viewed:
- Videos of the coach taking envelopes full of cash on two separate occasions. Richardson received $5,000 in cash on June 20, 2017 in a New York City hotel and $15,000 the following month in Sood’s Princeton, New Jersey office. Richardson said on tape that he needed the money to recruit Quinerly, a point guard prospect, to play at Arizona.
“The $5,000, I didn’t think had any purpose,” Sood testified, saying he didn’t understand why an undercover FBI agent posing as an investor paid Richardson that amount. “I need clarity what the money was for; whereas 15 (thousand) was for a specific recruit.”
Asked what the money would do for them, Sood testified, “It would give us access to that player and manage the relationship.”
- A recording of Richardson discussing the challenges of sending Ayton to Dawkins for representation. In an August 2017 meeting, held at a Tucson restaurant, Richardson said Ayton’s mother was “loyal to someone else” when it came to picking an agent. (Ayton turned pro after one season at Arizona, signed with agent Nima Namakian and was taken No. 1 overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2018 draft).
- Richardson’s revelation that he paid the Quinerlys $10,000 of out of his own pocket, and his promise to give Jahvon Quinerly an extra $5,000 to commit to Arizona.
Richardson said on video that Quinerly’s mom wanted to move to Tucson; Sood testified that she was looking for a “potential job.”
Richardson said he instructed the Quinerlys to take several official visits to other schools so as not to garner any suspicion.
“You never want someone to worry, ‘You went to Arizona and you committed on the visit. What happened?’” he said on video.
Quinerly verbally committed to Arizona on Aug. 8, 2017, less than three weeks after prosecutors say Richardson took $15,000 to help in his recruitment. He decommitted in October 2017, three weeks after Richardson was arrested.
- Richardson’s claim that he was paying Alkins’ cousin, who relocated to Tucson to be near Alkins, “like two grand a month.”
- Richardson’s boast that LSU coach Will Wade, who has also been linked to the scandal, approached him about joining the Tigers’ staff to help with the recruitment of Reid. Richardson says on tape that Wade told him he had a deal for Reid for $300,000. Richardson then said he told Wade to “give me half (of the $300,000) and I’ll make sure the kid goes there.”
Richardson also said on videotape that Dawkins told him, “I wish I was a pimp and you were a prostitute. You’d make millions for me.”
- Richardson’s claim that paying players was causing him financial trouble, and that he’d taken money out of his TIAF-CREF retirement fund to cover payments to players — including $10,000 he said he paid out of his own pocket to Quinerly’s family.
New NCAA rules allow evidence and testimony from courtrooms to be directly imported into NCAA investigations, so Monday’s conversations and testimony might affect any sanctions levied against Arizona’s program.
Even if Miller is not directly implicated, he could face penalties under NCAA bylaw 188.8.131.52, which states head coaches are responsible for the actions of their direct and indirect reports unless they can rebut the presumption of responsibility.
Richardson, who pleaded guilty to one federal bribery charge rather than go to trial, was not apparently afraid of getting caught.
“If anything happens, it’s their word against mine,” he said, according to the video.
The trial continues Tuesday.