Major news networks across the United States are reporting that Bahamian NBA player DeAndre Ayton, the top overall pick of the Phoenix Suns last summer, received $10,000 a month to play for the Arizona Wildcats.
Ayton, who broke numerous school records and received quite a few conference and national honors and awards in his one year in college, has denied receiving money to play – a direct violation of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules and regulations. He went on to have a productive first year, being the only rookie in the National Basketball Association (NBA) to average a double-double this year, and breaking the Suns’ rookie record for double-doubles among other accolades. The 7’1” 250-pound center had one of the highest field goal percentages among rookies in NBA history this year, and is a candidate for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award.
Ayton was a McDonald’s All-American and the number three prospect in the ESPN 100 Class of 2017 coming out of high school in the United States. He was highly recruited by a number of major NCAA Division I programs in the U.S., before settling on Arizona.
It is being reported that former Arizona Assistant Coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson was heard on a recording telling FBI agent Christian Dawkins that Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller was paying Ayton $10,000 a month, and that Ayton received up to $100,000 to play for the Wildcats.
Federal prosecutors played the taped phone call, intercepted by wiretaps, before a jury on Wednesday, as part of the ongoing trial into college basketball corruption. It was stated that the call between Richardson and Dawkins was focused on how Ayton could be recruited to Dawkins’ sports management company, and how Dawkins offered to pay Richardson each month under his agency.
Miller and the Arizona Athletics Department are yet to respond to the latest allegations, but Miller previously denied knowledge of the alleged scheme to bribe players to sign with Arizona.
While in college, Ayton’s family hired attorney Lynden Rose Sr., a Bahamian basketball icon and The Bahamas Honorary Consul General in Houston. Rose termed the allegations as false and urged the FBI, the NCAA and the university to come out publicly and clear Ayton’s name. In a statement, it was said that Ayton’s family is “outraged and disgusted” by the reports that implied that Ayton or his family had any involvement in illegal or prohibited activities regarding his decision to matriculate to the University of Arizona.
Rose said Ayton told the FBI that he “never discussed or solicited payments from the University of Arizona, or any other university, or any shoe company or anyone on behalf of either – period”. He said Ayton’s decision to commit to Arizona was based on his family ties to Phoenix as well as his familiarity with the program and the area. Ayton played high school basketball at Hillcrest Prep Academy in Phoenix, Arizona.
The recording that was released in court in New York this week falls in line with a report in February of 2018 that FBI wiretaps intercepted a call between Dawkins and Miller, stating that the Arizona coach discussed a $100,000 payment to secure Ayton’s commitment to the Wildcats. Miller disputed the report and denied ever paying a recruit to sign with his program.
In February 2018, when allegations first surfaced, Miller vehemently denied any involvement.
“Let me be very, very clear: I have never discussed with Christian Dawkins paying DeAndre Ayton to attend the University of Arizona,” he was quoted as saying. “In fact, I had never even met or spoke to Christian Dawkins until after DeAndre publicly announced that he was coming to our school. Any reporting to the contrary is inaccurate, false and defamatory.”
The major scandal is a part of a nation-wide investigation into the NCAA that has hit the heart of college basketball in the United States.
Richardson was one of four assistant coaches arrested by FBI agents in September of 2017 after a two-year investigation into bribes and other corruption in the sport. Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans, who also has Bahamian roots; Auburn’s Chuck Person and the University of Southern California’s (USC) Tony Bland were the others.
If the story with Ayton pans out, Arizona could be forced to forfeit all wins with Ayton and likely face fines and sanctions.
Ayton was a one-and-done wonder for the Wildcats. In his one year in college, he averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game for the Wildcats, was the Pac-12’s player of the year and freshman of the year, the Pac-12 Tournament’s most outstanding player, the winner of the Karl Malone Award – given to the nation’s top power forward, and a consensus first-team All-American, and a consensus national player of the year finalist.
Ayton receives almost $18 million guaranteed money in his first two seasons with the Suns, and should earn a maximum of over $41 million over his four-year rookie contract. He is already a multi-millionaire, and individually, these latest allegations will have no bearing on his earnings in the pros. However, it is a major blow to the men’s basketball program at Arizona, and by extension, college basketball in the United States.
Other major programs affected include those of Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), Kentucky, Michigan State and Kansas.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting