NEW YORK - Former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola testified in federal court Monday that he didn't believe Kansas Jayhawks coach Bill Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend were aware that he was facilitating money from the sneaker company to the parents or guardians of high-profile recruits to ensure they signed with the Jayhawks.
But text messages between Gassnola, Self and Townsend presented by defense attorneys on Monday indicated the Kansas coaches were at least aware of Gassnola's involvement in the Jayhawks' recruitment of current player Silvio De Sousa, a native of Angola.
The testimony and text messages came during the federal criminal trial involving Addias executive James Gatto, Adidas consultant Merl Code and Christian Dawkins, a runner for former NBA agent Andy Miller. The men are charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud by allegedly funneling money from Adidas to the families of recruits at Kansas, Louisville, Miami and NC State.
The government is expected to end its case as early as Tuesday, and U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan told the jury Monday morning that it could begin its deliberations as early as Thursday.
Gassnola, a former AAU director from Springfield, Massachussets, testified last week that he paid $90,000 to former Kansas player Billy Preston's mother, and that he also agreed to pay $20,000 to De Sousa's guardian, Fenny Falmagne, to help him "get out from under" a pay-for-play scheme to send De Sousa to Maryland.
"I don't remember the words, but Fenny told me he was under this umbrella from the [Maryland] booster," Gassnola testified Monday.
On Aug. 9, 2017, Townsend texted Gassnola and wrote, "Coach Self just talked to Fenny let me know how it goes."
A few hours later, Gassnola texted Self: "Hall of Fame. When you have 5 minutes and your [sic] alone call me."
Later that night, after Self hadn't responded, Gassnola texted him again: "I talked with Fenny."
"We good," Self asked via text.
"Always," Gassnola replied. "That's [sic] was light work. Ball is in his court now."
According to cell phone records presented during Monday's testimony, Gassnola and Self had a five-minute, six-second phone call later that night. Gassnola testified that he didn't recall what the men talked about. His phone was not being monitored via FBI wiretaps at the time.
On Aug. 19, 2017, three days before Kansas announced that it had agreed to a 12-year, $191 million contract extension with Adidas, Gassnola texted Self and thanked him for helping the sponsorship deal get done.
Self responded: "I'm happy with Adidas. Just got to get a couple real guys."
Gassnola replied: "In my mind, it's KU, bill self. Everyone else fall into line. Too (expletive) bad. That's what's right for Adidas basketball. And I know I am RIGHT. The more you win, have lottery pics [sic] and you happy. That's how it should work in my mind."
Self responded: "That's how ur works. At UNC and Duke." Gassnola replied at Kentucky as well.
"I promise you I got this," Gassnola wrote. "I have never let you down. Except Dyondre lol. We will get it right."
When Michael Schacter, Gatto's defense attorney, asked Gassnola if "Dyondre" was a reference to former Arizona player Deandre Ayton, Gassnola replied, "It is."
On Aug. 26, 2017, Townsend forwarded Gassnola a text message that he said he'd received from Falmagne: "Coach has been on the phone with Angola. We are good to go. We will commit tomorrow."
De Sousa, who attended IMG Academy, committed to Kansas four days later and joined the Jayhawks in late December. He averaged 8.8 minutes in 20 games, and he scored seven points and grabbed seven rebounds in 10 minutes in the national semifinal loss to Villanova.
Gassnola testified that Falmagne, a native of Angola, who is also the legal guardian of Maryland forward Bruno Fernando, only wanted Adidas gear for the Angola national team. He said he shared that request with Self and Townsend but didn't tell them about the arranged $20,000 payment.
Gassnola testified that he'd never seen a sales record or designs for Adidas uniforms for the Angolan national team. He also was unaware that Nike sponsors that specific national team.
Self was asked about the federal trial at Big 12 media days last week and said: "I don't have any response. I can't talk about that. I'm not meaning to be opaque about this at all. I just feel like... our stance is still the same. We'll comment when the time is appropriate. The appropriate time is when this is done and that'll certainly be the case. I'm not going to make comments day to day on what has been said because we'll know obviously in the next couple weeks what actually this is all about."
The government also introduced text messages between Preston and his mother, Nicole Player, in which she seems to instruct her son to deny knowledge about the purchase of an automobile he wrecked on the Kansas campus shortly after enrolling there in 2017.
On Nov. 13, 2017, Preston texted his mother and told her, "The NCAA dude just came to my floor. ... He said something about my car and how it's bought in [Florida] and all that."
She replied: "Tell him you don't know where it was bought. ... Your mom and nana handled that."
"You don't know," she continued. "[I don't care] what they say to you ... YOU DON'T KNOW."
After Preston replied, "GOT YOU," she wrote: "If they ask you about a person say, "I don't know ... I would have to see their face."
Preston did not play in a game for the Jayhawks this past season and turned pro because of eligibility concerns. He was not selected in June's NBA draft and signed a two-way contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers.