North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he never had any hesitation about playing freshman wing Nassir Little, despite FBI documents that appeared to allege Little’s AAU coach was trying to funnel money to his family.
“I believe in people,” Williams said. “And I look people in my eye and ask them questions, and if they give me an answer, I have an opportunity to believe them or doubt them.
“Nassir’s family, his mom and his dad, and Nassir, I believed what they said. I strongly believed what they said.”
In September 2017, the FBI released documents that showed Jonathan Brad Augustine, Little’s former AAU coach, was one of several people involved in a scheme to pay the families of top prospects in exchange for their commitment to certain Adidas-sponsored universities.
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The documents described a recruit that fit Little’s profile, but never described he or his family as taking part in the scheme. The family denied they were involved.
It was later revealed that Augustine, the alleged facilitator of the deal, told federal investigators that he wanted to keep the money for himself.
And earlier this month, text messages revealed in court during the college basketball trial in New York between Augustine and an agent also involved in the scheme appeared to show that they were worried the Little family might find out.
“That’s the issue with him going to an Adidas school because the family isn’t taking it,” Christian Dawkins, the former agent, wrote to Augustine.
“So do I need to say the family’s taking it,” Augustine replied.
“I just worry about it getting back to them,” Dawkins responded.
Both Augustine and Dawkins were arrested for their roles in the scheme. Dawkins is standing trial, while Augustine was dropped from the indictment after it was reported that he would cooperate with investigators.
Little, who is 6-6, 220-pounds was a McDonald’s All-American and five-star recruit coming out of high school. Lauded for his athleticism, Little is expected to be a huge contributor for a Tar Heels’ team looking to get back to the Final Four.
Little’s family signed a sworn affidavit denying involvement last year. And in an interview with The News & Observer in October 2017, Harold Little, Nassir Little’s father, said he was shocked when he saw the description of his son in the documents and wanted the FBI to clear his son and family’s name.
“I think the facts have shown, what they’ve said to me is what actually happened,” Williams said, “but there was never any doubt about that.”