When the ongoing college basketball corruption scandal broke last year, the Miami Hurricanes were one of the first teams to acknowledge that they were somehow indirectly connected, but through almost two weeks of United States v. James Gatto, the court case resulting from the FBI investigation, Miami went almost entirely unmentioned.
The latest round of testimony was another positive sign for Miami. Previously, the only mention of the Hurricanes came during opening arguments Oct. 2, when Steve Haney, Christian Dawkins’ attorney, accused Brad Augustine of attempting to con money from Adidas. Haney claims the Hurricanes never discussed a payment with Nassir Little or Little’s family.
Little and his family have steadfastly denied accusations.
“Nobody ever had a single conversation or dialogue with the family of Nassir Little, and never had a single intention of giving Nassir Little or his family money in exchange for a commitment to the University of Miami,” Haney said. “You are not going to hear any evidence of that because it doesn’t exist.”
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On Thursday, a witness called upon by the prosecution discussed the Hurricanes’ involvement with star small forward Nassir Little as part of extensive examination. So far, no one at Miami has been implicated.
T.J. Gassnola, a former Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) coach and Adidas consultant, testified Thursday in the ongoing college basketball trial taking place in New York and presented his side of the story. During cross examination, Gassnola outlined former Florida AAU coach Augustine’s desire to receive compensation for Adidas in exchange for steering Little to Coral Gables.
Gassnola’s testimony regarding Little began during direct examination, when Gassnola recalled a conversation with Augustine at grassroots tournament in August of 2017. Augustine, Gassnola alleges, asked Gassnola if he could inquire with the Kansas Jayhawks about their potential interest in Little. When Gassnola confirmed Kansas wasn’t interested and relayed the message back to Augustine, the coach told Gassnola that Little was most interested in the Hurricanes and the Arizona Wildcats. Gassnola alleges Augustine inquired about potentially being paid to send Little to Miami.
“Brad brought up to me a conversation that he wanted to get paid for Nassir Little to go to Miami,” Gassnola said, “and he knew what the brand had done to get Brian Bowen to Louisville.”
Brian Bowen Sr., the father of the star small forward, admitted last week to accepting $100,000 from Adidas in exchange for his son signing with the Louisville Cardinals. The Cardinals, like the Hurricanes and Jayhawks, are sponsored by Adidas. Arizona is sponsored by Nike, as are the North Carolina Tar Heels, whom Little now plays for.
“He explained to me that Christian Dawkins and told him — had told him about the Brian Bowen situation,” Gassnola said, “and he could get the same if Nassir Little went to the University of Miami.”
Dawkins was an employee of ASM Sports, an agency run by former NBA agent Andy Miller. Dawkins is allegedly involved with arranging payments the payments which steered Bowen to Louisville.
Assistant United States attorney Eli Mark then presented a wiretapped phone call into evidence. On the call, former Adidas executive Merl Code Jr. told Gatto, also a former Adidas executive, that the Wildcats had offered $150,000 for Little. Gatto and Code then discussed whether Adidas would be able to match, although the call does not acknowledge whether the Hurricanes were aware.
During cross examination, Gassnola elaborated on what Augustine wanted from Adidas.
According to Gassnola’s testimony, Augustine told Gassnola that 1 Family, Augustine’s AAU team, was not receiving any financial assistance from Adidas. If Little had committed to Miami, Gassnola would have had coach Jim Larranaga make a call to Adidas, Gassnola said in his testimony.
“I told Brad that if Nassir Little had gone to Miami,” Gassnola said, “that I would have Coach Larranaga make a phone call and I will call him.”
Gassnola then said he recalled a conversation with multiple Hurricanes assistant coaches, including Chris Caputo, regarding the additional funding Augustine hoped to receive from Adidas for his program. A program source told the Herald that Miami never made a call to Adidas.
“Did you tell them that if Nassir Little went to Miami to play basketball, that it would be important for Coach Larranaga to call Adidas about providing funding for Brad Augustine’s youth basketball team?” asked Michael Schachter, who is Gatto’s lawyer.
Tepidly, Gassnola confirmed Schachter’s allegation.
“I don’t recall my conversation with them. I might have had a conversation with Caputo himself about that particular — about that situation, yes.”
Little was still uncommitted when the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced the FBI had arrested 10 individuals in conjunction with the scandal last September. Little, who played at Orlando Christian Prep, stopped considering the Hurricanes and committed to North Carolina last October. He signed with the Tar Heels in November and now projects as a potential top five pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
The Hurricanes ultimately failed to sign any high school players in its Class of 2019, at least in part due to the lingering cloud of uncertainty in Coral Gables.