Nassir Little earlier this month became the first top-10 prospect to commit to North Carolina in more than three years, but his college choice came amid complications: Little is connected to the FBI’s years-long investigation into college basketball recruiting.
Nonetheless, UNC coach Roy Williams said on Tuesday that he is not worried about Little’s connection to the case.
“I’m not involved,” Williams said, referencing the FBI investigation. “I think if we’re still recruiting them, I still think that we feel good about it, yes.”
Williams is prohibited by NCAA rules from discussing specific players he’s recruiting, until those players sign their national letters of intent. Little, a 6-7 guard from Orlando, Fla., is not charged with wrongdoing. Nor is anyone in his family.
Yet the FBI investigation determined that adidas employees and Little’s AAU coach, Jonathan Brad Augustine, who was arrested, discussed payments to direct players to sign with certain schools. It is believed that adidas and Little’s AAU coach attempted to direct Little to the University of Miami, an adidas-sponsored school.
Little and his father recently signed affidavits denying they discussed payment with Miami, the Miami Herald reported earlier this week. Williams, meanwhile, offered on Tuesday his first public reaction to the FBI investigation into the seedy underworld of college basketball recruiting.
The federal investigation led to the arrests of 10 men, including college basketball assistant coaches and adidas executives. According to the FBI investigation, adidas was involved in funneling money to prospects’ families, or their AAU teams, in exchange for the prospect deciding to play at a certain school.
“We haven’t had a perfect model since 1906,” Williams said, referencing the founding of the NCAA. “There’s not going to be a perfect model because you can’t legislate honesty, you can’t legislate morality, and I think what we have to find is a better model and do a better job of following the rules.
“I think we’ve got a million rules, and some of them we waste too much time on, but cut those back and follow those closely. … But we haven’t found the perfect model, so anybody says that they’ve got an answer, they must be a lot smarter than everybody’s been for over 100 years.”
College basketball’s summer high school recruiting circuit, a whirlwind of camps and tournaments sponsored by Nike, adidas and, now, Under Armour, has long been assumed to be a cesspool of corruption – an underworld with its own black market economy.
The FBI’s investigation has shed light on how some of that economy allegedly works.
Asked if the reality of that underworld has deterred UNC from involving itself with some prospects over the years, Williams said, “We’ve chosen for many years not to get involved in certain situations, because it didn’t look like it was our kind of situation.”
“And I’m not saying it was going to be crooked, or it was going to be this,” Williams said.
He recalled on Tuesday a conversation he shared with members of his staff.
“A couple of years ago I really felt like, I said to my staff, I think the next big issue will be the involvement of shoe companies,” Williams said. “It was a few years back.
“But again, guys, I had to get somebody to sit down and explain to me, because I didn’t even understand completely who was paying who, for what. And they explained it to me, and I’m still not sure that I understand exactly what happened.”