Two basketball recruits who were high on the University of Miami’s list committed to other schools on Wednesday night; and at least one of them said the school’s implied link in an FBI investigation factored into his dropping the Hurricanes from consideration.
Five-star forward Nassir Little of Jacksonville, who is believed to be the player mentioned in recorded conversations between defendants in the FBI’s bribery probe, announced he chose the University of North Carolina over Duke, Miami, Arizona and Georgia Tech.
Miami and Arizona were reported to be his top choices, but both schools are mentioned in the FBI investigation; and Little’s AAU program director, Brad Augustine of Orlando-based 1Family Hoops, was one of 10 people arrested.
Little told ESPN he dropped UM and Arizona from consideration after news of the investigation broke last week.
Never miss a local story.
“I just didn’t want to be mixed in a situation where any of the accusations seemed like it was true, because it wasn’t,” said Little, ranked No. 14 in the ESPN 100. “Every school I was considering was because I had a genuine interest in them. North Carolina had been the school I wanted, regardless.”
He said Coach Roy Williams and the Tar Heels’ winning tradition gave UNC the edge. Little averaged 17.6 points and 7.5 rebounds on the Adidas AAU circuit. He started his high school career at Jacksonville Oakleaf and transfered to Orlando Christian Prep.
“I just love Coach Williams,” he said. “He really cares about his players off the court, which is important. They’re a basketball school, which is something I wanted to be a part of. Coach Roy really knows how to win. I love winning. I really do. And that’s important to me.”
As for the implication that his recruitment was tainted with plans of payoffs involving his AAU coach, Little replied: “I just block it out. They can say what they want. I just focus on myself, and do what my heart desires.”
Last week, 1Family released a statement on Twitter insisting the Little family was innocent, “did not ask for, nor were offered money by any institution or individual. They were completely unaware of any of the alleged offenses that may have mentioned or contained their son’s name.”
Also Wednesday, highly-touted Jalen Carey of Montclair, N.J., announced he will attend Syracuse. UConn and Miami were his finalists, but his father, John, said he eliminated the Hurricanes last week.
“I have two outstanding options, but I can only choose one,” Carey said on a video announcing his decision. “And that is Syracuse University.”
Carey, a 6-3 guard, is ranked No. 34 in the ESPN 100. He averaged 18.6 points for the NJ Playaz team on the Nike EYBL circuit.
UM coach Jim Larrañaga, through his attorney, Stuart Z. Grossman, said he had “zero involvement” in any improper recruiting, and said his assistants Chris Caputo, Jamal Brunt and Adam Fisher are also innocent. They are turning over phone records and documents, and cooperating with authorities. The Canes began practice last Friday, and their first exhibition game is Nov. 10 against Gardner-Webb.