Thompson Admits to Paying for Friend Kabongo’s Trip to Cleveland
Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson said he paid for Texas guard Myck Kabongo to come to Cleveland earlier this year to work out with a trainer — and was reimbursed by Kabongo’s brother.
Thompson and Kabongo have been friends since their childhood days in Toronto and played together at St. Benedict’s Prep and Findlay Prep, as I covered in this story a few years back from Rivals.
“Did I pay for him? Well, yes and no,” Thompson said, according to The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. “You know, I actually had to pay for it and then had his brother reimburse me, which is totally fine with the NCAA. We discussed that. Again, we want to respect the process. I think everything’s going to work out. I don’t see no eligibility issues, but that’s for the NCAA to work out.”
According to a report in Yahoo! Sports, the NCAA is investigating possible improper benefits provided to Kabongo by Thompson’s agent Rich Paul, who lives in the Cleveland area and also represents LeBron James.
Yahoo! reported that the NCAA is investigating who paid for Kabongo’s trip and expenses, and who provided his workout with New York-based trainer Jerry Powell. The report also said that Paul called NBA front offices on behalf of Kabongo before this year’s NBA draft.
A Texas spokesman confirmed to media outlets that Kabongo has spoken to the NCAA. The NCAA does not comment on current, pending or possible investigations.
Thompson said he already has spoken with the NCAA about the trip and his relationship with Kabongo.
“I told the truth to them,” he said. “They also know me and Myck’s relationship. If you go back in history, me and him went to high school together. We’ve been through a lot. They’re not knocking the friendship, they understand that. They just want to make sure no outside sources are financing that trip. But no one else did and we have the proof to show them. That’s what I provided to them and they’re going to go from there.”
Kabongo started 34 games for Texas last season. He was third on the team in scoring with 9.6 points per game and led the Longhorns with 5.2 assists a game. He has been projected as a possible first-round 2013 draft pick.
He could be declared ineligible if the NCAA determines he received improper benefits from an agent.
Paul represents two former Longhorns, Thompson and San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph, Yahoo! reported.
Yahoo! reported that Kabongo could also violate NCAA legislation “even if the financing of the event comes from his or her former teammate under preferential treatment legislation.”
NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206.6 prohibits “preferential treatment, benefits or services because of the individual’s athletics reputation or skill or pay-back potential as a professional athlete, unless such treatment, benefits or services are specifically permitted under NCAA legislation.”
(The Associated Press contributed reporting)
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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.