Text messages shown in court appear to clear UNC’s Nassir Little in FBI case; family speaks out

Text messages between a grassroots basketball coach and a former agent runner shown in federal court Monday appear to back up a claim made by UNC freshman forward Nassir Little and his father that they did not accept money in exchange for Little’s commitment to play college basketball.

According to the Aug. 6, 2017 text exchange between former agent runner Christian Dawkins and Little’s former 1-Family basketball coach Brad Augustine, Dawkins appears concerned that Little’s family will find out about the discussion of payments.

In a text to Augustine about Little, Dawkins writes, “That’s the issue with him going to an Adidas school because the family isn’t taking it.” Augustine replies, “So do I need to say the family’s taking it?” Dawkins responds, “I just worry about it getting back to them.”

Augustine and Dawkins were among 10 arrested in September 2017 as part of a scheme that involved agents, college basketball coaches and Adidas employees paying or bribing athletes to play at Adidas schools or sign with the apparel company upon entering the NBA draft. Charges against Augustine were dropped in February.

Little originally committed to Arizona but, after the scandal broke, he signed with North Carolina, according to reports by The News & Observer. His family has denied receiving any payments or being offered any money as part of the scheme and signed sworn affidavits in Oct. 2017. No evidence has been presented in the case showing any involvement by Little, his family or Arizona.

Dawkins is being charged with wire fraud conspiracy.

It’s unclear whether the 2017 text messages between Dawkins and Augustine were meant to say the Littles were offered money and didn’t accept it or whether Dawkins and Augustine were making plans without the Littles knowing.

The Washington Post in April reported that Augustine told federal prosecutors “he never intended to pay the players or their families, and that the little money actually paid out in these deals for himself.

Harold Little, Nassir Little’s father, did not respond to request for comment. He did tweet on Monday: “Key point still missing...we were never offered any money.”

On Tuesday, April Little, Nassir’s mother, tweeted a note that said, “It’s been over a year since these lies were spread about our family and the tears still won’t stop falling. Everyone keeps telling me not to stress over it. It’s so easy to say cause it was not your child. This happen to us. The hurt is strong and it has affected my family greatly. I know that time heal all wounds but this is not the hour.#AMother’sLoveIsLikeNoOther #MixedEmotions#CoverUsLord”

Nassir Little also tweeted on Tuesday: “Reporters better tweet with that same energy when my name first got put into this mess.”

TJ Gassnola continues to testify

Thomas “T.J.” Gassnola, a former Adidas America consultant, continued to testify Monday morning, and reiterated the role of a former N.C. State basketball coach in a $40,000 payment made to the father of former Wolfpack guard Dennis Smith Jr.

When cross examined about the payment, Gassnola said, “I made a payment to Orlando Early, which he said was going to Shawn Farmer for Dennis Smith’s family.”

Farmer was Smith’s trainer. Smith now plays for the Dallas Mavericks and signed with Under Armour upon entering the NBA.

Also on Monday, texts in which Kansas head coach Bill Self references UNC and Duke, both Nike schools, surfaced in court. Self appears to insinuate that the two schools and Kentucky use similar recruiting methods as Adidas schools.

In a Sept. 19, 2017 text to Gassnola, Self writes, “Just got to get a couple real guys.” Gassnola replies: “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’m right. The more you have lottery picks and you happy. That’s how it should work in my mind.” Self texts back,”That’s how ur (sic) works. At UNC and Duke.”

Officials at Duke declined to comment. Officials at UNC had no immediate comment.

UNC coach Roy Williams said on Oct. 9 that he was “dumbfounded” by the FBI’s findings in its investigation into corruption in college basketball. He also said apparel companies have never offered to recruit for him.

“That world that people are acting like it goes on all the time, it does not go on all the time,” Williams said last week. “That world that they are explaining out there, that world that’s on national news, I am not familiar with. Period.”

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Monday at the Blue Devils’ media day that he agreed with Williams about the trial, the scandal and the scope of such wrongdoing in college basketball.

“I think it’s minute. I think it’s a blip,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s not what’s happening. I heard Roy. When I heard what he said, I understand that. I’m not exposed to....We haven’t lost guys to cheating. I’m not aware of that. I haven’t paid attention to that because I haven’t been affected.”

Staff writers Steve Wiseman and Jonathan M. Alexander contributed.

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