Former Louisville recruit about his visit: 'It was like I was in a strip club'
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Five former University of Louisville basketball players and recruits told Outside the Lines that they attended parties at a campus dorm from 2010 to 2014 that included strippers paid for by the team's former graduate assistant coach, Andre McGee.
One of the former players said he had sex with a dancer after McGee paid her. Each of the players and recruits attended different parties at Billy Minardi Hall, where dancers, many of whom stripped naked, were present. Three of the five players said they attended parties as recruits and also when they played for Louisville.
Said one of the recruits, who ultimately signed to play elsewhere: "I knew they weren't college girls. It was crazy. It was like I was in a strip club."
A book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen," published this month by self-described former escort Katina Powell, 42, details nearly two dozen stripping and sex parties from 2010 to 2014 inside Billy Minardi Hall, the on-campus dorm for athletes and other students named for Louisville men's basketball head coach Rick Pitino's late brother-in-law. Powell, who first spoke to Indianapolis Business Journal Book Publishing, has said that McGee arranged the parties and paid her $10,000 for supplying dancers during the time period.
Powell told Outside the Lines in an extensive interview that McGee also supplied cash for "side deals," which included sex with some recruits, guardians who accompanied them on visits and some Louisville players.
The former player who said he had sex with a dancer told Outside the Lines that McGee provided him with one-dollar bills to tip dancers and paid for one of the dancers to have sex with the player in a separate room. One of the other former players, who said he attended the parties as a recruit and player, said McGee "would give us the money, just the recruits. A bunch of us were sitting there while they danced. Then the players left, and the recruits chose which one [of the dancers] they wanted."
"I don't know if any of this is true or not," Pitino told ESPN's Dana O'Neil and Yahoo! Sports in a conference call Tuesday. "There's only one person who knows the truth, and he needs to come out and tell the truth to his teammates, to the University of Louisville, to his fans and to his coaches that have taught him to do the right thing for years and allowed him to be part of something special here."
McGee, who declined to comment, left Louisville in 2014 and is an assistant coach at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He is on administrative leave with pay while the school conducts a review. The NCAA and Louisville also are investigating.
"He's the only one with any answers," Pitino told ESPN and Yahoo! Sports. "Whether it's true or not, I don't know. I spoke to my nephew who lived in Minardi Hall, lived in the dorm, and he said he never saw anything the entire time he lived there. Obviously by what people are saying, something did go on, but there's only one person who knows the truth.
"Everything else is absurd. I don't care about the legal issues. If he's done something wrong, he has to own up to it and do his penance.
A Louisville spokesperson told ESPN that Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said, "Coach Pitino has no plans to step down and he absolutely didn't know about the allegations." The spokesman said Jurich would not be commenting further.
"To preserve the integrity of the review process, the university will withhold comment on any details until the review is concluded," the school said in a statement issued Tuesday morning.
Pitino's son, Minnesota coach Richard Pitino, told ESPN on Tuesday morning, "I can say 100 percent sure, with zero doubt, that [Rick Pitino] knew nothing about any of these alleged incidents."
Rick Pitino told ESPN earlier this month he has denied having any knowledge of the parties: "Not myself, not one player, not one trainer, not one assistant, not one person knew anything about any of this," the Hall of Fame coach said. "If anyone did, it would have been stopped on a dime. Not one person knew anything about it."
All five of the ex-players or recruits who spoke with Outside the Lines did so on the condition of anonymity, citing a fear of retribution from Louisville fans, players and coaches.
Outside the Lines reviewed Powell's journals, text messages and phone records and independently confirmed that text messages sent to Powell to arrange the parties came from McGee's cellphone. Further, Outside the Lines has independently confirmed a wire transfer of $200 from McGee to Powell on one occasion.
Powell said she put in a call to an NCAA representative in the past but that the person hung up on her. An NCAA spokesperson on Tuesday wouldn't confirm or deny Powell's claim, but the spokesperson told ESPN, "As with any potential rule violation, we welcome a conversation with anyone who has information."
Powell's attorneys are scheduled to meet with the University of Louisville's general counsel Tuesday afternoon.
"I couldn't make this up if I wanted to," Powell told Outside the Lines. "I have no reason, or have the need, to lie on anyone. Everything I'm saying is 100 percent the truth."
She said McGee spoke often about needing to put Louisville in a position to sign the recruits: "He always said his job was on the line. And you could tell he was serious about it when he said it."
Powell said she kept phone records, texts and detailed journals of the events, "because I knew that this day would come, and I knew that one day they would say, 'She's lying.'"
Powell said she asked McGee whether Pitino knew about the parties: "I said, 'Does Pitino know about this?' And he said, 'He's Rick. He knows about everything.'"
While Powell said she has no firsthand knowledge that Pitino knew about the parties, she finds it hard to believe he wouldn't have: "Four years, a boatload of recruits, a boatload of dancers, loud music, alcohol, security, cameras, basketball players who came in [to the dorm] at will ... "
Powell said she was first introduced to McGee by a mutual friend who owns a Louisville barbershop. It was that person, Powell said, who organized the first two shows at Minardi Hall.
"I hired her for a few bachelor parties and that's it," the man said when reached by Outside the Lines. When asked if he ever organized parties at Minardi Hall, he said, "No, sir," and hung up the phone.
It was during the second show at the dorm, Powell said, that McGee brought up the possibility of sex.
"He asked me, 'Is there any girls that want to make extra money,' pretty much a side deal with the players. ... So I asked the girls and their eyes lit up like, 'Well, yeah,'" Powell said. "... 'Side deals' were sex, and if they [the dancers] wanted to make extra money, that's what the 'side deal' was, sex."
Of the roughly two dozen dancers who Powell says she brought to Minardi Hall from 2010 to 2014, she estimated that all but five or six had sex for money with former Louisville basketball players, active Cardinals players or recruits who were visiting the campus.
"The recruit would pick out what girl he wanted. Andre would come to me, tell me what girl the recruit wanted, and I would tell the girl and she would say her price," Powell said.
Powell said McGee paid her upwards of $10,000, mainly, she said, for delivering the dancers to the parties that McGee had organized.
"Andre was the one who always had the money," Powell said.
Lindsay Powell, 24, Katina's daughter, told Outside the Lines she danced at multiple parties and was paid $100 to have sex with former Louisville point guard Russ Smith, part of the Cardinals' 2013 NCAA championship team and now a player with the Memphis Grizzlies. Katina Powell's book also mentions the allegation involving Smith, who did not respond to requests for comment.
"I believe that McGee came to my mom and said something to her about it, and my mom came to me and I was like 'OK,' and we went in another room and we had sex," Lindsay Powell said.
During another party, Rod Ni Powell, 22, another daughter of Katina's, said she was paid to have sex with former Cardinals player Montrezl Harrell, a power forward who now plays for the Houston Rockets. Katina Powell told Outside the Lines and wrote in her book that Harrell, who played with Louisville from 2012-15, had sex paid for by McGee as a recruit and as a player.
"Montrezl was there, and I don't know, I guess he felt left out. He just kind of asked me if I would do it, and I did it. I got paid maybe $100, maybe a little more," Rod Ni Powell said.
Harrell declined to comment when reached last week by Outside the Lines but this month denied having any knowledge of the parties when interviewed by the Houston Chronicle.
"I don't know anything about it," Harrell said. "I didn't too much stay at the dorm. I stayed off campus. I had a girlfriend off campus. ... It was pretty shocking that took place, if it did. I'm right there with Coach [Pitino], as shocked as he is."
Two other women, who both say they danced at the dorm parties, also spoke with Outside the Lines but on the condition of anonymity.
One said she was paid roughly $300 for a night of stripping and one sexual encounter with a recruit. Another woman, who asked to go by the name Mandy, said she went to a party at Minardi Hall in 2010 or 2011. Mandy estimated that she was 17 at the time and had yet to graduate from high school.
She said Powell explained the purpose of the party: "Basically to help people come to Louisville."
Mandy said there were seven to nine girls at the party the night she danced. When they first arrived, she said, Powell led them into a room where there was just one man. After changing clothes, Mandy said, Powell sent the women in pairs into what looked like a large dorm room that was packed with 10 to 15 men, most of whom appeared to be basketball players.
"It would be a lot of guys, and they all had chairs," Mandy said. "I was excited because Peyton Siva was there."
Mandy said Siva, a four-year point guard who played on the Cardinals' 2013 NCAA championship team, autographed her chest, a detail Powell also recalled when asked about that evening. Siva, who also was mentioned in Powell's book, could not be reached for comment.
Mandy estimated she made another $400 to $500 that night in tips, as the men threw one-dollar bills at her feet.
Mandy said that none of the dancers that evening had sex with the players and questioned Powell's claims about sex-for-cash "side deals," although she said it was possible dancers had done so without her knowledge.
Powell, in her book and in the interview with Outside the Lines, said Louisville recruits JaQuan Lyle, Antonio Blakeney, Jordan Mickey and Terry Rozier all had sex during their recruiting visits. Lyle, Blakeney and Mickey either could not be reached for comment or declined to comment.
Rozier said: "I don't want to talk about it. ... I was already committed before I took my visit. ... I will say, though, Coach P [Pitino], as far as the dorm situations and visits, he'd go out to eat with the recruits and their parents. As far as after that, he wouldn't know. ... I can say his nose is clean."
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Louisville is one of nine schools to have at least three classes in the top 10 of the ESPN Basketball Recruiting Rankings between 2010 and 2014. Only Kentucky and North Carolina had more than three ranked classes during that span.
Powell's admissions and McGee's alleged role are being investigated by the University of Louisville Police Department. A spokesman for Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine confirmed that his office is consulting with law enforcement.
"If my office receives credible evidence of sexual abuse or other criminal activity involving minor children, we will vigorously prosecute those responsible for those crimes," the spokesperson said.
Powell insists her three daughters were all at least 18 the first time they were paid to have sex. The age of consent in Kentucky is 16.
"Everybody that I dealt with was grown and were able to make their own decisions as to what they wanted to do," Powell said.
When asked about Powell's potential criminal exposure, Larry Wilder, her Jeffersonville, Indiana-based attorney, said Powell "never profited."
"Everybody acknowledges she never got any money from any of the side deals," Wilder said.
According to Wilder, Powell's admission alone isn't enough to prosecute her. He points out that engaging in prostitution is a Class A misdemeanor with a one-year statute of limitations. The far more serious offense of promoting prostitution is a Class D felony offense with no statute of limitations, Wilder said.
He added, "If the Commonwealth believes that a crime of promoting prostitution occurred as a Class D felony, then the Commonwealth will have to prosecute Andre McGee and Katina Powell together."
Former player Luke Hancock, the Cardinals' Final Four Most Outstanding Player who was never mentioned by Powell to have attended any parties, said the entire situation is "unfortunate, regardless of what is proven true or false."
"I can only say what I know: I have never seen this person before. For somebody who was around the team so much, how have I never seen her before?" Hancock said. "You can't be in every second of every player's lives, you can only try and guide and influence people the right way when you are around them. I wholeheartedly believe coach Pitino embodies a leader who tries to make his players better on the court, but really grow as people off the court."
ESPN staff writers C.L. Brown and Andy Katz and producers Caitlin Stanco and Simon Baumgart of ESPN's Enterprise and Investigative Unit contributed to this report.