The Miami Hurricanes open basketball season Friday and they’re doing so without perhaps their best player. Shortly before tipoff against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks at the Watsco Center, Miami announced it would hold Dewan Hernandez out of the season-opener in Coral Gables, citing an “eligibility” concern.
“University of Miami junior Dewan Hernandez will be withheld from competition as the university and the NCAA review his eligibility,” the Hurricanes said in a statement released less than a half an hour before tipoff Friday.
Hernandez tested the waters for the 2018 NBA Draft before ultimately opting to return to school after receiving feedback from scouts and NBA front office executives. The center’s eligibility concerns apparently tie back to his days as a recruit from Norland, though.
Joe Zagacki, the play-by-play announcer at Miami, reported Hernandez’s absence is because of his connection to the FBI investigation and ongoing college basketball trials. Christian Dawkins, the middleman found guilty in United States v. James Gatto last month, at one point listed Hernandez as a player he wanted to pay, ESPN reported earlier this week.
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Dawkins planned to pay Miami’s Huell (now Hernandez) $500 per month from September 2017 through January 2018, then $1,000 per month until April 2018,” the report said. “If Hernandez left Miami after the 2017-18 season, he wouldn’t have to pay the money back, according to the email. But if Hernandez elected to return to the Hurricanes for an additional season, the payments would be converted to a loan, according to the plan.”
Dawkins was previously a runner for ASM Sports, an agency run by Andy Miller.
The Hurricanes were dragged into United States v. Gatto in October, but it was thought to be solely because of their recruitment of Nassir Little. Wire taps presented into evidence at the trial revealed Brad Augustine, Little’s Amateur Athletic Union coach, sought money from Adidas, through Dawkins, in exchange for steering Little to Miami. No evidence was presented showing any Hurricanes coaches were aware of Augustine’s conversations with Dawkins.
At Miami’s preseason media day Nov. 1, athletic director Blake James said he felt the scandal was in the past for the Hurricanes, although he did acknowledge there would be more information to come as investigations and trials continued.
“We’re going to continue to monitor everything. Obviously, there’s more cases to come,” James said. “I believe we’re in a good spot, but I’ve believed we were going to be in a good spot all along. Again, I believe in Jim [Larranaga] and what our staff are doing, and I’m confident that they’re doing things the right way, and until someone shows me something else, I’m going to believe that we’re operating within the guidelines established by the association, that we’re led by a man with great integrity and that we’re going to continue to do the things that we do to give our students the best experience possible.”
With Hernandez out, Ebuka Izundu started at center against Lehigh alongside forward Sam Waardenburg, and guards Chris Lykes, Dejan Vasiljevic and Anthony Lawrence.