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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / January 19.
  • Agents Creeping into College Hoops

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    NEPTUNE, N.J. — A little while back, a Division 1 coach from an East Coast school received a telephone call that caused him to perk up just a little bit more than usual.

    “I received a call asking if I was interested in a player and the call did not come from his high school coach or AAU coach, but rather from an agent,” the coach recalled.

    The coach says he ultimately turned the player down, but the call reveals an inside glimpse into how college basketball really works.

    More and more, elite high school prospects, or those who are especially tall, are “handled” not by high school or AAU coaches, but by NBA agents or “runners,”  people who work for agents in return for something else.

    If a high school or college student-athlete has a written or verbal agreement with an NBA agent, they automatically lose their eligibility. An agent can serve as a prospect’s “advisor,” but the advisors can’t speak on their behalf to other professional entities.

    Yet how prevalent is this?

    This same coach said he spoke to another former coach of a prominent national program — one that has won multiple NCAA championships — who said “he has to deal with agents more than AAU coaches when he has to talk to the people close to top recruits.”

    The coach we spoke to added: “I don’t think this is happening with most Division 1 recruits. I don’t think it’s happening with people who are underneath the elite level, but I think with a truly elite recruit who is probably going to end up in the NBA, they definitely have agents talking to them at an early age and advising them. Then a college coach has to talk with anyone who’s advising a player. They’re part of the process, and it’s a natural evolution.”

    The coach added: “They gain influence [with the recruit]. Once they gain influence, they have to be spoken to.”

    Why does this type of thing go on?

    “I think it’s part of the one-and-done rule,” the first coach said. “Kids that are highly likely to be NBA players clearly stand out. Agents understand this. I think they often recruit them earlier than college coaches do, and because they don’t necessarily have restricted access they can get close relationships very early on.

    “Also clearly the less fortunate a family is, the more receptive they probably would be to someone who wants to help them.”

    How exactly does it work?

    “It’s more [the agent saying], ‘You’re going to sign with me [when you go pro]. Let me get you through the next year because I know your family’s having a hard time and I’ll help advise you on choosing the right school,” the coach said.

    This doesn’t happen with every elite recruit. By all accounts, Lance Stephenson’s recruitment was handled strictly by his father, and Xavier Henry’s recruitment was handled by his family.

    But John Wall’s recruitment was handled in part by Brian Clifton, a former licensed sports agent. Some expect Clifton to re-up as an agent and serve as Wall’s agent should he enter the 2010 NBA Draft.

    Clifton told Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com last year that he stopped being an agent to focus on his AAU program D-One Sports.

    “Absolutely, I was a licensed agent,” Clifton said. “But what I started and what I had given my life to was this [D-One Sports] program, and I was about to watch it fall apart. Obviously, I couldn’t let that happen. So at that time — after having not signed any clients — I figured that [the D-One Sports] program was the most important thing for me. … And that was the end of the agent thing.”

    In a separate but related development, several coaches said it’s also not uncommon for agents to “funnel money” to specific AAU programs in return for influence with those players down the line when they become eligible to play professionally.

    “Just the way shoe companies sponsor AAU programs hoping that someday they’ll wear those shoes,” one coach said. “It’s possible that an agent could sponsor an AAU program hoping that their players will choose them.”

    Baylor head coach Scott Drew did hire Dwon Clifton, Brian’s brother, to his staff and many expected that Wall would ultimately follow Clifton there.

    Of course, Wall ended up at Kentucky but the tactic Drew used is perfectly legal. Many college programs have hired people with influence over a prospect. Kansas hired Mario Chalmers’ father. Kansas State hired Michael Beasley’s AAU coach. Memphis hired Dajuan Wagner’s father and Arizona State hired James Harden’s high school coach.

    One common conception is that some college coaches are running around with bags of money paying off players.

    And while former USC coach Tim Floyd is alleged to have paid $1,000 in cash to Rodney Guillory, an alleged runner for NBA agent Bill Duffy, in order to land former USC and current NBA guard O.J. Mayo, the coach we spoke with said it’s rare for college coaches to pay for players.

    “No, I don’t think college coaches are paying,” he said. “That’s the thing. I think things have shifted with elite athletes where I don’t think colleges are cheating to get elite players. I think that in some cases agents are paying the players and taking that part of the recruiting process out.”

    And, in fact, that is exactly what the NCAA is investigating in the Mayo case. Guillory is alleged to have provided Mayo with improper benefits via Duffy. Mayo then initially signed with Duffy, but switched allegiances after the story became public.

    ***

    Also, here’s a good story by Pete Thamel about how Ed O’Bannon is suing the NCAA on behalf of athletes seeking compensation for the use of their images and likenessess in TV ads, video games and apparel. Sonny Vaccaro approached O’Bannon about leading the suit.

    Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter.

    Written by

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

    • just to clarify, Clifton didnt want Wall to go to UK. But Wall went anyway so that says that Wall has nothing to do with an agent. he went to play for HIS coach

    • A bit of a loaded statement by bigpap but probably true. I just think its amazing that fans of Cal and UK basketball have to keep defending Coach Cal. I would expect a feeble attempt of a comment by the uneducated dimwit noodlenuts (pastaboy) about this post.
      Its obvious that his DDMO is a major plus for top shelf recruits to play for him in their “purgatory” that is the one and done college career

    • Clifton, Brian that is…wanted John 2 go 2 Duke not Baylor.

    • If Congress held hearings into the BCS then they should DEFINITELY hold hearings into College B-Ball. Or at least tell the NCAA to clean it up or they’ll revoke the NCAA’s tax exempt status.

      • Gohard- actually to make you look stupid, he wanted Wall to go to Baylor. that was the first choice. Wall wanted an upper-echelon school so Clifton tried to steer him toward Duke, a big school where he could still try to run his life. He never wanted Wall to go to Miami or Kentucky or (Calipari)Memphis in fear the coaches wouldnt allow Clifton as much access. It boiled down to Clifton wanting what was best for his self not Wall. But Wall decided to make his decision on his own.

    • (((((((((yawn))))))))))

    • Only one flaw in your theory: Calipari wouldn’t allow Clifton as much access? Are you kidding? WWW eats at the team table, travels with the team, etc. I’m pretty sure that Clifton will be in Lexington a lot (if he isn’t already living there).

      • Hey, just curious, wasn’t there something about Mario Chalmers dad in there too or something? I don’t know, didn’t read the article, but with your selective reading, I’m sure you could spot that in no time! Have a great day! By the way, did it hurt….. when you got shot by that bb gun? lolz

        • Just curious blasphemy, but how does it feel to continuously have to defend your coach to everyone other than Big Blue Nation? And why do you always try to find flaws in everyone’s arguments but your own?

          • I don’t know how it feels to continuously defend my coach since there hasn’t been a charges against him directly or implied…… **ever**. Maybe you should ask ol’ Roy about the direct present buying for a student at KU and the direct implications that followed? By the way, wasn’t T. Hansborough mom hired at UNC? Weird. lol

          • There you go again. Do you feel insecure about your coach, because you always try to turn things around on the poster? I have not said anything about Calipari, I just thought it was comical that as soon as anyone on here seems to suggest anything about him, you are quick to get on their case (as with your post above). Roy is not perfect and I would never say that he is.

          • Maybe you can’t read? Maybe selective? I’m not sure, but I did say that and I quote, “I don’t know how it feels to continuously defend my coach….” which directly answers your first question. But I do know how it feels to bash people who bash cal (or can’t read). Regardless, since you obviously don’t understand your two posts, let me help you understand them too. First off, you ask me a question (sarcastic, and rhetorical but still a question) and then procede to assume that I did it to “just” turn it around on you. Logic fail #1.
            Logic fail #2 is…. “but how does it feel to continuously have to defend your coach to everyone other than Big Blue Nation?” Once again, for those who can’t read or need it said twice, IM NOT DEFENDING HIM. I’ve stated in this comment section that it IS FAIR GAME to ask the question about Calipari, BUT**** how do you call yourself a fair person when other names where mentioned in this article AS WELL AS several of the “innocent” coaches have been directly implicated and Cal hasn’t? Guilty until proven innocent? Really?
            MY POINT EXACTLY- “Roy is not perfect and I would never say that he is.”**** Nor am I saying that Cal is perfect, I’m simply questioning the logic that only Calipari’s name should come up with scandal *cough* Tim Floyd *cough* *cough* Myron Piggie *cough* (the list goes on… with coughs there too)

            Lastly – When I make my points……. I’m generally trying to get a laugh out of people aswell. I don’t expect all to laugh, nor are all of my posts intended to be funny, but if just one person laughs at any part of any post, then it has become worth it. (Even though I frequently cry from all of the bad odor coming from many of these comments, stinky stinky) And even some of the malicious ones about Cal are funny regardless of how much I disagree with it, see DrDick’s post a few down from here.

            Have a great day!

          • (Lost my train of thought lol) continued from the previous post

            see DrDick’s post a few down from here. ***Regardless, I’m not here to feel “insecure” but to simply make people laugh and hate me at the same time +)

            Nowwww, you may have a great day! lol

          • I think I will have a great day! Because until April 2010, North Carolina’s still the National Champions.

          • You do that! I’ll be thinking about how Kentucky has the most all time wins in D1 basketball AND has the second most championships. Great days all around, cept for UNC needing two more championships to just be even with UK all time, what a bummer! lol

          • And since you’ve been potty trained they’ve been completely irrelevant.

          • If irrelevant is winning the the SEC Tourney or being the SEC regular season champion then they’ve only been gone for about 5 years come this Febuary. You obviously know your facts Big Ben, I guess when they only make it to the Sweet 16 they are just god awful. We haven’t been “Kentucky” for a bit more than 5 years, 6-7 years, but making the Sweet 16 makes you bad? Really? But hey, I guess being a “Grown up” like yourself with a “degree” (lol) you obviously can do basic research. Maybe you’re the one still in diapers? Have a great day!

    • To clarify: Ronnie Chalmers was hired AFTER Mario had already committed.

      http://phogblog.com/2005/06/29/mario-chalmers-dad-ronnie-hired-by-ku/

      bigpapi-

      “Wall wanted an upper-echelon school so Clifton tried to steer him toward Duke, a big school where he could still try to run his life. He never wanted Wall to go to Miami or Kentucky or (Calipari)Memphis in fear the coaches wouldnt allow Clifton as much access.”

      So Frank Haith and John Calipari wouldn’t allow Clifton “access”, but Coach K would? Coach K runs his program and his players; his players don’t run him…

    • You morons are trying to argue but cant. Im trying to tell you Coach K and Clifton are friends. Coach Cal doesnt like him, therefor Clfiton didnt want Wall at UK. And just to be clear WWW has never been anywhere near our campus.

      • Look behind the Kentucy bench this year and you will see WWW’s seat.

        • Not behind Kentucky’s bench!!! No, he will be in the Paranoid Personality Disorder section, I believe you have seats there too DrDick and Rockchalkin. Have a great day!

    • It’s funny watching the Kentucky fans scramble every week when the weekly dose of “Calipari really is crooked” is released. Face it, you knew he was crooked before you hired him. Your message boards are full of years worth of posts where you discuss how he was crooked. Now that you signed your deal with the devil you expect everyone to look the other way. Not gonna happen.

      • Poor Ben …… Calipari has been coaching 17 years and has accumulated a marvelous HOF record , has never been penalized or sanctioned by the NCAA ……now he coaches a historic program with the arguably the best recruiting class in history ….and the Kentucky Wildcats will be on the way back to their former glory years ….only possibly better. The only thing the losers can do is sit in the dunce corner sucking their thumb mumbleing …”he’s a crook , he’s a crook ” ……….LOL …..this is gonna be fun .

        • LOL I love the analogy, cracked me up, you go girl! lol

      • Isn’t funny to also see Calipari haters crucifying “the one” every time some story with his name even being mentioned? And yet somehow all of the other coaches on that list aren’t being mentioned by the bloggers save one time? Maybe this a cause and effect situation, “has” Ben? For you are the savior of logic! All bow to the mighty Jenious! lol

    • blasphemy-

      I don’t know where the “Paranoid Personality Disorder” comment came from… all my post said was that Ronnie Chalmers was hired after his son’s commitment, and questioned why Coach K’s “access to players” standards were lower than Miami’s or Kentucky’s.

      At no point did I bash anyone. I just made a statement in defense of KU, similar to what you are doing in regard to UK.

      I am curious: at what point in my post was I paranoid?

      • (Not a facetious comment)

        Honestly, the paranoid personality part was mostly for DrDick. But, saying that standards are lower than Miami’s or Kentucky’s is stating opinion, especially given that Clifton was pushing Wall toward Duke (from the rumors). I am close to the UK situation, and honestly, UK is actually very closed off from my understanding***. The local media talks about UK’s ‘closedness’ a bit so I speculate*** that as frequent as they talk about it, that Kentucky is not as ‘open and corrupt’ as people seem to perceive. However, because it is local, it may be slightly more biased. Yes, I’m acknowledging this, but we are more familiar with UK, so it is a double edged sword. A good comment if you add in that you speculate** that UK and Miami’s standards are lower than Coach K’s. Sorry for the confusion, I was a bit hasty in that comment.

    • (this is semi-facetious)

      I will tell you who IS paranoid, though:

      Mark Story from the Lexington, Ky., Herald-Leader

      http://sportsblog.projo.com/2009/03/columnist-quest.html

      • (Not facetious at all except for this comment talking about how the rest is not)

        Mark Story is among the least liked people in KY right now, he is second only to the almighty Pat Forde who is absolutely hated for that espn article. (this is speculation, but from the comments afterward on both articles you might draw the same conclusion) Some people do question Calipari, which is Ok, But to ignore all the other coachs to simply bash Calipari, to me, is hypocritical in most cases in D1 Bball. Now, if you bash Calipari AND others I’ll try my hardest not to make a facetious remark.

        Rockchalkin, I leave you with this: I think several people on here are actually pretty fair, you are one of them. But others…. lol, that get under ones skin all the time, (I will admit, I am this, but I try to do it to those who do it for no good reason other than to bash) Once again, hope that you don’t find me as an enemy, for you seem pretty objective.

        • The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t really matter if he’s a crook or not. Everyone believes he’s a crook which is why no major school besides UK wanted him representing their university. As long as Cal is in Lexington you’ll have to defend him to the rest of the world. Might as well just grow some thicker skin…

          • Ya, why should evidence count? We should skip the whole dang process of proving somebody guilty! Its the american way right? lol

          • My point is that no one here is trying to get Calipari tossed from the sport, they’re just talking trash on him being a snake.

            And Kentucky folks, who up until 3 months ago were leading the charge against him, are now constantly defending every real or imagined slight.

            It’s going to be a long 3-5 years in Lexington if you can’t get over that impulse. If he is successful (and I’m not convinced he will be) the accusations will only get worse.

            That’s the tragedy of this hiring for Kentucky fans and why few fanbases would take that bargain. There’s no way to win except giving up the notion that your program is clean, a thought that most basketball fans can’t handle.

          • We were leading the charge? REALLY? Or maybe you’ve been commenting on here too long. There ARE other people that support UK outside of these comment sections on this website. FACT: articles about JC or even disscussion about him among UK fans were MINIMAL until the head coaching job was vacated. I don’t ever remembering being against him….. But hey, since you’re obviously close to the situation you know all about it…. Wait…… this just in……. Big Ben doesn’t actually know much at all about the general UK support base. Wow, and he really said that he knew about Kentucky fans and what their opinions were? Yup, that’s what she said.

    • Either what you said or Calipari ended up being the highest bidder for his services. Where there is smoke there is fire. Is it not suspicious that every Calipari recruit is a hired gun and looking for a hand out?! He is going to be taken down and is going to take down Kentucky with him. Good Riddance!

      • Where there is smoke there is fire? I guess so….. but did you know the coolest embers cause the most smoke per flame volume…. and the hottest fires…. have only water and CO2 emissions (meaning no “smoke”)? Your saying is outdated. Also, sometimes smoke comes from smoke machines too, that have no fire, did you know that? Every Calipari recruit has a hired gun? Really? John Wall, Eric Bledsoe coachs both wanted them to go to Kentucky???? REALLY??? Wow, guess I forgot to get unnamed sources from imagination land when I decided to get info.

    • No major school wanted Cal? …besides KY.? ….another lie by Fat Ben ….Cal had an offer from N.C, State 3 years ago …..Ariz. wanted him …to say that no school besides Ky. would hire one of the top coaches in the country and one of the cleanest ….is another absurd observation from the small minded haters .

      • North Carolina State never officially offered him a contract though it was thought Lee Fowler was interested after Rick Barnes and Jamie Dixon said no thanks. We’ll never know if he really was NCState’s 3rd choice…

    • The order of choice is often based upon the percieved availability of the coach …..and has nothing to do with coaching ability ….ie. was Mike Anderson really the 4th choice for Alabama after Grant , Tubby Smith , and Oliver Pernell? Of course not …..but the 1st three were percieved to be availbale to make a switch …..and Anderson ‘s availability was percieved as a long shot . Another Fat Ben theory blasted to smithereens …… this job is so easy.

      • Grant and Tubby were definitely their choices over Anderson. Anderson was their third choice, however. It has nothing to do with availability, it’s not like NC State was going after Kansas or UCLA’s coach. Memphis, Texas and Pitt are all arguably steps down from NC State.

        • HUH ???? …..LOl …Fat Ben you just type words that are non truths …..N.C.State plays .500 ball ….have for years ….its a program that achieved moderate success in the 70’s and 80’s under Sloane and Valvano ….but it has never been in the class of Memphis ever …..nor in the class of Pitt and Texas the past few years ….and yes ….Alabama wanted Anderson but figured he was a long shot availability wise ….LOL …availability is the entire game you frigging moron .

          • Nice Google. The fact is it’s a great job for someone that is confident they can compete with UNC and Duke. They are basketball crazy, play in the best conference in America, and have great local and regional talent base. Both Pitt and Texas are missing at least one of those things.

          • That’s why they wanted Cal ….hottest coach in America

    • If Memphis had hired Bruce Pearl by some miraculous divine intervention ….would that make him the 4th choice behind the guy from Baylor ….Reggie Theus ….and the guy from S.Cal ? …..you’re a complete idiot

      • Pearl was obviously their first choice. I’m not sure why this is so hard for you. Calipari was no higher than Kentucky’s 3rd choice this time around and wasn’t in their top 5 when Tubby split.

        There are 2 reasons no program wants him: 1. He can’t coach the talent he brings in and 2. He cheats to bring in the talent.

        No one outside of Kentucky fans would argue this.

        • No Fat Ben …..Pearl was not their 1st choice ….their 1st choice was Pitino …but guess what brainiac …..he wasn’t available …… to say that no program wants Calipari is simply an ignorant statement Fat Ben ….he’s the hottest coach in America …..he’s had one losing season in 17 …his 1st at UMASS ….. 441 and 137 …12 conference titles ….and yes Fat Ben ….his 1st NC will be coming soon at KY. Now why don’t you provide links for the times Cal has been penalized for cheating Fat Ben

          • Once again, Calipari has never been the #1 choice for a major opening. The reason for that is he’s a bad Xs and Os coach and he cheats.

          • No links …. thanks Fat Ben ….Nurse …show in the next wingnut lying scumbag please ( busy day) .

        • Big Ben, Cal was the number 1 choice from the get go for UK this time around. I think you’re getting the facts of BCG being the 3rd option last time and Cal being the 1st choice this time around. Straight from A.D. Mitch B’s mouth. Once again, you are far too stuck in rumor land. I live in fact land, which is why I’m not arguing about N.C. State or Tenn. or Memphis or any of that other stuff because I just don’t know (nor do I care a whole whole lot). Try sticking to things you know. If you want proof that Mitch B said he was the number 1 and ONLY one, go to http://www.youtube.com and find the morning when UK hired Cal. Have a great day ‘has’ Ben!

          • Donovan was the #1 choice both times. This time Kentucky officials believed they had him, so much so that they leaked it to Mark Maggart and the Hearld-Leader.

            There were quite a few other guys that were ahead of Calipari this time as well.

          • Billy Donavan will get his head handed to him by Cal …..,. this greaseball punk can’t coach a lick

    • For whatever reason, All the comments I’m trying to post about how wrong ‘has’ Ben is about the Billy D. thing won’t post…… IDK why, maybe this short post will start me off? (the Billy D. post is really long)

      • Ok, now that I got that posted, I think I’m going to post this thing in segments…. here goes….

        Ok, first off, Marc Maggard’s source, SOURCE, not UK OFFICIAL, was wrong, I doubt any official from any school would tell anybody anything like that if it were even half true. It’s safe to assume that because of his alleged “source” being wrong, if he even had one, that it was a RUMOR, which many were running RAMPANT at that time. Several saw potential coaches in lexington that day (eating a grand slam at denny’s lol, no joke, several had that in their story). MY sources are the video conference where Mitch said he was the No. 1 Choice and Larry Glover, a radio host, who has a single source (who has a high accuracy at predicting these things) who said early on, one day after the BCG firing that John Calipari was the prime target. Nobody else was mentioned by that source. Now, I can’t give you audio documentation since Larry Glover didn’t start posting his shows on the internet until mid April, (bummer). You can call him on the radio show which is on from 6-8 weeknights on http://www.wvlkam.com.

    • Second part:
      The herald leader also never posted such an article. In fact, the Donovan thing is soooo wrong, that right after, just an hour or two after the press conference on the firing of BCG, Donovan issued that “not interested” statement. I’m close to the situation, you’re not. If you also look at the times of the articles that Mr. maggard posted them…. you’ll notice they are only about 2 hours apart from the time that the story of BCG officially being fired to the story of Donovan officially not being interested. UK was jumping the gun that much? No, not really. You’ll also notice that Maggard focuses heavily on Donovan before BCG is even fired….. a tell tell sign maybe? Would UK really go after Donovan again after he stubbed them the first time? Also, the herald leader did not post anything on Donovan being out and coming to UK at the time of BCG’s firing. If they did, they had to do it in a 2 hour time frame……. The columnists are bad…. but are they that bad? lol…. Anyways…… I’m close to the situation you’re not, I’m right and you’re wrong. Have a great day. Oh, try posting proof next time in the form of a link for burried articles.

      • For whatever reason, it won’t let me post freaking links!!! Gahh

        • Finally!!!

          • Ok, on the last note, Cal was always the first choice after BCG AFTER the coaching search started which was AFTER Donovan denied seeking the UK job.

            Sorry about all of the broken posts, when I tried to post a few links, the links (apparently) didn’t want to be posted and (apparently) took the rest of the post with it. Only when I dissected it did I find that and I’m sorry for breaking it up into so many pieces. ='(

    • Hey didn’t Cal get in trouble at UMASS?

      • Nope, Marcus Camby did by accepting money from an NBA agent during the Tourney. Ya, Cal just wanted Camby to take that money…. yup…… and have his best player considered inelligible. He wanted it so bad he reported it himself. Just a bad character all around.