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 Thursday, January 13
Summer leagues focus of probe
Associated Press

 KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Is another major scandal about to engulf college basketball?

This one involving summer recruiting and summer coaches, shadowy agents-advisors and a federal grand jury hearing secret testimony in Kansas City?

Already, players in California, Missouri and Oklahoma who are from the Kansas City area have lost at least part of their eligibility. It may be just a local case involving Kansas Citians. Or, some speculate, it may soon cast a net over Division I schools around the nation.

Said one law enforcement source who asked not to be identified, "This is not about $50 and a free pair of shoes. I can promise you that much."

Tom Asbury figures more than a few coaches are "shaking in their boots."

"There are probably some who are," the Kansas State coach said Monday. "I would say there's going to be some heads up on this, no question."

At least one key element of the probe is the conduct of coaches and sponsors at summer basketball leagues which have sprouted up since the NCAA instituted a lengthy recruiting period in the summer.

Generally sponsored by foundations, wealthy individuals or shoe companies, the summer teams recruit high school kids and sometimes play 50-100 games, jetting the players around the country and paying for their lodging and gear. Often, summer league coaches gain the trust of players and replace high school coaches as the central figures in the recruiting process.

JaRon Rush, a sophomore at UCLA, was indefinitely suspended Dec. 9 after allegations surfaced that he accepted money. His brother Kareem Rush, a freshman at Missouri, was subsequently suspended for part of this season in connection with the same federal probe.

Then last week the NCAA declared Oklahoma State's Andre Williams ineligible for the rest of the year. The NCAA also said Williams would have to repay $20,000 that was paid on his behalf to a Maine prep school.

"They might as well ask the kid for $20 million," said Tom Grant, the Kansas City businessman who sponsored Williams and JaRon Rush.

The school is appealing the ruling and Grant, an admitted Kansas fan, said he's never even attended a game at Oklahoma State, let alone acted to funnel players there.

"I think it's really an injustice to a fine young man," said Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton. "It would seem to me if that's the ruling, then the NCAA almost has to go back and check every person who's been in a prep school and see how their tuition was funded."

Williams had played at Schlagle High School in Kansas City, Kan., before transferring to the Maine school for his senior year.

Grant sponsored JaRon Rush at Pembroke Hill, an exclusive prep school in Kansas City. He said he's spent more than $1 million sponsoring minority youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds, not all of them athletes.

"I've helped other kids of color at other schools achieve educational opportunities," he said. "Only two of the kids I've ever helped have ever played Division I sports. My family and I have helped about 15 kids, maybe more. I helped raise funds for another dozen or so."

The federal government justifies its involvement because if the amateur status of players was compromised, it could potentially defraud federally-funded universities.

In the meantime, the problem of summer recruiting is being discussed at the NCAA's annual convention this week in San Diego. No changes will be made immediately, but many ideas are sure to be floated as the NCAA seeks to maintain control of the multi-billion dollar industry of college basketball.

One reason nothing was done while the problems grew worse is because nobody trusts each other, said Kansas coach Roy Williams.

"The NCAA doesn't want to let coaches get involved because they say (coaches) have their own agenda," Williams said. "One shoe company doesn't trust the others. The high school federation may not want the NCAA telling them how to run their association. We've got a problem with trust."

Baylor coach Dave Bliss said it's just another example of the NCAA trying to legislate to do the impossible.

"To think you can legislate against immorality or lack of integrity ... I know we've always tried but it doesn't work," Bliss said.

The problem comes down to "morals and ethics," said Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson.

"We have a set of rules in place," he said. "Coaches have to follow rules and the NCAA has to enforce them. We don't need to create a brand new area of enforcement."

FBI spokesman Jeff Lanza declined to say how long the probe would continue or whether indictments might be handed down.

Feds talk to Oklahoma State's Williams in AAU probe

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