The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

One of the recruits at the center of the federal NCAA basketball probe chooses UNC

(Associated Press)

Nassir Little, a highly regarded basketball prospect whose recruitment was part of an FBI investigation targeting shoe-company executives, financial advisers, agents and assistant coaches, announced Wednesday that he has verbally committed to North Carolina.

Little, a 6-foot-7 small forward from Orlando, is ranked as the No. 9 prospect overall and No. 4 small forward in the class of 2018 by 247 Sports.

“I just love coach [Roy] Williams,” Little told ESPN. “He really cares about the players off the court, which is important. They’re a basketball school, which is something I wanted to be a part of. Coach Roy really knows how to win. I love winning. I really do. And that’s important to me.”

As the FBI uncovers a shadow economy, let’s be clear who created it: The NCAA

Little was not named in the criminal complaint released Sept. 26 by federal prosecutors in New York, but multiple reports have identified him as “Player-12.” The men charged — including Brad Augustine, who is the program director of Little’s AAU team — are alleged to have discussed a scheme in which $150,000 was to be paid to Little’s family for his commitment to “University-7,” which reportedly is Adidas-sponsored Miami, at the behest of an unnamed Hurricanes coach. There was a sense of urgency to secure Little’s services because another school — reportedly Arizona, which is sponsored by Nike — was making a similar offer to Little.

Little removed both Miami and Arizona from consideration shortly after news of the investigation broke last week.

“For me, I just didn’t want to be mixed in a situation where any of the accusations seemed like it was true. Because it wasn’t,” Little told ESPN. “Every school I was considering was because I had a genuine interest in them. North Carolina had been the school I wanted, regardless. I just block it out. They can say [what] they want. I just focus on myself, and do what my heart desires.”

Little’s AAU program, 1 Family Hoops, denied that his family asked any NCAA program for money in exchange for his commitment.

“The Little family did not ask for, nor were offered money by any institution or individual. They were completely unaware of any of the alleged offenses that may have mentioned or contained their son’s name,” 1 Family Hoops said in a statement to ESPN.

“There is not one single player in our program, nor family member of any player, that had any knowledge or discussion about payments being made in regards to making a college decision. We stand by this 100 percent and will allow the truth to come out as this process unfolds.”

North Carolina is sponsored by Nike. On Tuesday, Tar Heels Coach Roy Williams said the shoe company never has offered to help him land recruits, as Adidas executives were alleged to have done in the criminal complaint.

“They’ve never helped me get any player, never insinuated, never done anything,” Williams told ESPN on Monday.

“I’ve dealt with Nike and Jordan Brand since I came back here, but we never even discuss things like that,” he added. “So I know it’s foreign to me.”

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