On Wednesday at the college basketball corruption trial taking place in Manhattan’s federal court, Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola testified that the families of five recruits, Brian Bowen, Billy Preston, Silvio De Sousa, Dennis Smith and Deandre Ayton, received payments as a recruiting incentive.
Gassnola, who pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and signed a cooperation agreement with the government, also said the case’s three co-defendants, Jim Gatto, a former Adidas marketing executive; former Adidas consultant Merl Code and Christian Dawkins, an aspiring sports agent, had knowledge of the payments. He also indicated he worked with Chris Rivers, another former Adidas sports marketing manager.
Among the players, Deandre Ayton, this year’s top overall pick of the NBA draft, played for Arizona and was picked first in the recent NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns. Brian “Tugs” Bowen, who’s father was a key government witness in the case last week, was a former Louisville recruit who went pro in Australia after the scandal erupted last year.
Billy Preston had committed to play for Kansas before becoming involved in a crash and also turned professional. Dennis Smith Jr., who played at NC State, now plays for the Dallas Mavericks. De Sousa is still playing for the Kansas Jayhawks.
According to the Courier Journal, Gassnola started his own grassroots team in Massachusetts, the New England Playaz, and was listed as a “consultant” by Adidas as part of an endorsement agreement. He said, “It was all about relationships, having access to college programs.”
In other testimony, Carrie Doyle, a compliance officer for N.C. State, expressed her concerns over former men’s basketball head coach Mark Gottfried’s interactions with Eric Leak, a former NC State wide receiver. Jeff Smith, a University of Kansas compliance officer, also testified Wednesday. Gassnola’s testimony will resume Thursday, and the government indicated it could rest on Monday.