…at least that’s the pretty clear inference a reasonable person would draw from a rather sketchy article at Yahoo! Sports which appeared Sunday trashing Wade and LSU basketball’s burgeoning nationally-ranked basketball recruiting class without anything that looks like evidence.
Pete Thamel, who typically writes “everybody’s cheating” stories about college sports, wrote this drivel – one wonders if Thamel is responsible to any editors at Yahoo!, or if he can publish whatever he, or the coaches for whom he really works, want out there.
Members of the NCAA enforcement staff have spent parts of the past six months looking into the recruiting tactics of LSU coach Will Wade, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
NCAA enforcement officials have done work both on the phone and in person to look into Wade, including traveling around the country, to learn more about his recruiting.
The NCAA’s scrutiny of Wade began not long after his hire at LSU in March, but the inquiry has stalled because of a lack of on-the-record specifics about Wade’s recruiting, according to a source. The NCAA’s information gathering has covered part of his time as head coach at VCU, according to a source. Wade’s early recruiting activity at LSU prompted the NCAA enforcement interest, according to a source.
The NCAA’s interest appears to be in its exploratory and information-gathering stages, according to sources.
In other words, Wade has gone out and reeled in four players ranked in the Top 60 by most of the recruiting services, which is an impressive haul for a first-year major college coach at a program which was in abysmal shape when he took over, and because he did that the NCAA snooped around to make sure he wasn’t doing anything flagrantly against the rules to make it happen.
Which is routine, and as it should be.
And to date, nothing out-of-whack has been found. That’s what “the inquiry has stalled because of a lack of on-the-record specifics about Wade’s recruiting, according to a source” means. It means there is no there there, and Thamel doesn’t have a story.
So instead of putting any meat on any bones, Thamel brings up the AMG Sports payments to Jarell Martin and Tim Quarterman, who played at LSU for Johnny Jones and not Will Wade and have nothing whatsoever to do with Wade or his current recruiting, to fill out his story. By appearances so far it looks like Martin took money from AMG Sports after he’d declared for the NBA Draft, while Quarterman took payments from AMG during his junior year when he’d already been at LSU two years. In other words, there is no evidence either payment had to do with LSU’s basketball recruiting, if they had anything to do with LSU basketball at all. Those were two kids with a shot at playing in the NBA and AMG is a crooked sports agency trying to recruit clients.
Could be there is evidence out there Jones and LSU were using AMG as a middle man to funnel cash to players like Martin and Quarterman. That appears to be the gist of what Arizona head coach Sean Miller did in purchasing the services of Deandre Ayton, the best player in college basketball until the story broke last week of the $100,000 payment Miller reportedly directed to Ayton. The problem is there is no evidence of LSU’s involvement in Martin and Quarterman being paid by AMG, and the records of their payments so far don’t indicate Jones was using AMG as his bag man. If anything LSU’s program was a victim of AMG; both Martin and Quarterman left for the NBA a year earlier than they probably should have, and LSU suffered for it – had Martin stuck around to play with Ben Simmons, Craig Victor, Kyle Hornsby, Antonio Blakeney and Quarterman for the 2015-16 season, that year LSU would have been exceptionally dangerous in the NCAA Tournament rather than sitting at home, and had Quarterman come back for the 2016-17 season LSU wouldn’t likely have gone 2-16 in SEC play with 15 straight losses.
Again, none of any of that has to do with Will Wade, and yet it’s in Thamel’s piece.
The fact is, while Wade is clearly outworking the competition on the recruiting trail, and while an examination of what he’s doing with a very limited roster at LSU shows that he’s a coach recruits would think is worth playing for, it’s fortune rather than skullduggery which is more responsible for his success.
The class got started when Javonte Smart, the star point guard from nearby Scotlandville High school in Baton Rouge just north of LSU, committed to LSU. Smart has been around the LSU program since he was little, his best friend is Kelvin Joseph, who’s the star defensive back in LSU’s just-signed football recruiting class and Smart merely needed a good reason to choose to be a Tiger. When Jones was busy driving the program into the ground Smart didn’t have one, but Wade changed that immediately after taking over – he sold Smart on being the spearhead of his hometown program returning to national prominence with all his friends and family cheering him on. That’s a pretty easy sale for a Louisiana kid and it doesn’t require cash payments in most cases.
Then Wade landed Naz Reid out of Roselle Catholic High School in New Jersey, whose commitment to LSU was a bit of an eye-opener. Except Reid and Smart were friends and the idea of playing together appealed to both of them. And it helped that Reid’s girlfriend Raven Farley is a freshman on LSU’s women’s team this year. Yes, it looks unusual that LSU would get a Top 20 recruit out of New Jersey, but given the connections it isn’t really that surprising.
From there, Wade landed a pair of forwards out of Florida in Derrius Days from IMG Academy, a school which LSU has successfully recruited in other sports and which Wade has built his own connections, and Emmitt Williams from Oak Ridge High School in Orlando. Days and Williams are both friends with Smart and Reid from the shoe-league circuit. It isn’t so hard to think once Smart and Reid were on board their AAU pals would pay attention and develop some interest in playing together to build up a winner with them.
Especially when LSU stayed on Williams after he was accused of sexual misconduct by a former girlfriend, which got him arrested but never charged because the evidence apparently showed his behavior with the girl was consensual. Sometimes you can get a kid to commit to your program by believing in him when others won’t.
And sure, the NCAA would then look around. Finding nothing, there’s no story – until some coach who’s losing out to Wade on these players finks to Thamel in an effort to throw dirt on Wade’s success.
LSU obviously denies everything. Of course LSU does. There’s no evidence LSU has anything to deny.
Thamel ought to name his sources. That would be more interesting information than anything in his weak story.