In light of the story Steve Yanda and I wrote on Michael Beasley’s countersuit against his former agent, amateur basketball is today’s topic of discussion.
It is critical to note that no allegations made in the civil suit have been affirmed at this point. When asked to support Beasley’s assertions with evidence, Beasley’s attorney Mark A. Smith told us: “I am confident that, should this matter go to trial, I will have sufficient testimonial and documentary proof of the allegations made in the counterclaim. . . . As of right now, I cannot produce all the evidence I expect to have.”
Regardless of how the legal wranglings unfold, the story provides a window into the high-stakes world of amateur basketball, in which talented teenage prospects become prized commodities and relationships are cultivated through unregulated third parties.
In the fall of 2007, Beasley was among several highly touted, well-recognized prospects to enter college basketball. We now have the perspective of four years to see that at least three of those players — O.J. Mayo (Rodney Guillory), Kevin Love (agents) and Beasley — had allegedly been pursued by third parties before they turned pro. In addition, another top-flight prospect from that class, Derrick Rose, saw his SAT score invalidated, which resulted in Memphis vacating the 38 wins from Rose’s only college season.
But Dan Wetzel, the Yahoo! Sports columnist, is very much on point in his column today: It cuts both ways. And as one ACC assistant who called me late Wednesday night said, if the allegations are true, where would Beasley be without the influence of his former summer-league coach Curtis Malone, with whom Beasley says he lived as a teenager, and without his former agent Joe Bell? Would Beasley still have a multimillion-dollar NBA contract? If allegations are true, the assistant said, “Without Curtis and Joel, that kid is Lenny Cooke,” referring to the former prep standout who attended a number of high schools (as Beasley did) and entered the 2002 NBA draft without going to college. He went undrafted.
The tentacles of Beasley’s story touches Maryland in two ways.
First, first-year Maryland assistant Dalonte Hill has been a mentor and big brother to Beasley for a decade. Hill, who told me he looked at Malone as a father figure, is a former DC Assault player and coach and the former Kansas State assistant who played a large role in Beasley attending that school for one season. Hill told us he was unaware of any payments to Beasley’s mother, Fatima Smith. It is also important to note that Beasley’s countersuit does not make any allegations specifically against Hill.
Secondly, former Maryland Coach Gary Williams was one prominent coach who had grown frustrated and concerned with how the landscape of amateur basketball changed over the past decade with the influx of third-party influences. With the Beasley’s assertions in mind, you may want to take another look at my candid, no-holds-barred interview with Williams from nearly three years ago about his recruiting philosophy and the myriad of challenges he faced. It may also be worth revisiting the second part of a three-part series Yanda and I wrote about Williams’s recruiting. The second part of the series dealt in part with the possibility that Williams could have hired Hill and perhaps secured a commitment from Beasley, as well as Williams’s frosty relationship with influential power broker Malone. The story is appropriately titled “It’s a Whole New Ballgame, and Maryland’s Williams Isn’t Playing.”
In closing, Dave Telep, ESPN’s senior national college basketball recruiting analyst, wrote an instructive story Wednesday titled “The guide to dirty recruiting: How programs skirt the rules in pursuit of elite talent.” Telep, who is an insider’s insider on these topics, sums up his story (you need an ESPN Insider account to read it) by addressing how colleges recruit players who have been influenced by agents.
“Teams recruiting players involved with agents seek ignorance instead of answers and simply don’t ask questions that might make them aware of the arrangement. Don’t ask; deny the knowledge. It’s a mantra that more schools are employing.
“What’s the state of recruiting at the highest levels in 2011? It’s pretty sad. Based on the frequent conversations I’ve had with those on the recruiting circuit, if you asked 10 coaches whether they feel good about the recruiting game in its current state, they’d be lying if they said yes. The other sad reality is, they’d also be hard-pressed to provide a solution for how to fix the problems.”