Tony Bland and Book Richardson won’t go to trial, and it’s unlikely Lamont Evans will, either. However, that does NOT mean college coaches who have had shady conversations with Christian Dawkins or Merl Code can breathe easy.
On the contrary.
Dawkins is headed to trial again in April, and this time his lawyer says to expect some fireworks in the form of audio conversations involving college coaches.
“What really happened here will certainly be entertaining and potentially embarrassing to many,” Dawkins’ attorney Steve Haney told Stadium on Wednesday. “But not bribery.”
Haney admitted the first trial was going to be an uphill climb for Dawkins because the facts were never in dispute.
Brian Bowen Sr. got paid.
Dawkins, a runner for agent Andy Miller, as well as adidas’ Jim Gatto and adidas consultant Merl Code were all found guilty in late-October on felony charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They are all appealing prior to their sentencing, which is set for March.
“Our argument was that it wasn’t illegal, instead that it was against NCAA rules,” Haney said of the first trial. “But this case is different. Factually, we disagree with the claims.”
Haney said there will be a trial on April 22. They have already turned down the government’s plea offer, and Haney doesn’t expect any further conversations between the two sides in terms of a deal.
“We’re going to have a trial,” Haney said.
Haney said that in this trial, he expects that many of the phone calls on the wiretaps will be admitted as evidence due to their relevance.
“We intend to utilize them,” Haney said. “And I’d anticipate that they’ll be allowed in this case. In the last one, they weren’t really relevant.”
“If you are a head coach and you were cheating, you know who you are,” he added. “My job is to defend my client, not protect cheaters.”
TILLIE RETURN CREATES DILEMMA … OR MAYBE IT DOESN’T
Mark Few finally has all his toys now that Killian Tillie made his season debut in a rout over Santa Clara this past weekend.
The 6-foot-10 Tillie, the Zags leading returning scorer and a guy who made 48 percent of his 3’s each of his first two seasons in Spokane, had missed the first 15 games of the season due to a stress fracture.
His return was hardly overwhelming: Nine minutes, five points, five fouls, two rebounds and 1-of-2 from deep.
“It was a lower-leg injury, so it’s going to take him some time with running, jumping and slashing,” Few said. “Tillie’s been able to shoot, but he hasn’t done much with his legs – so that’ll take some time.”
As for the big question — whether he moves Tillie back into the starting lineup, or sticks with the smaller unit that includes Corey Kispert and has gotten the Zags to 16-2 with a win over Duke — Few doesn’t seem overly concerned.
“I’ll probably just sit down and talk to the guys,” Few said. “I’ve really got six starters, that’s a good problem to have. If starting means more to one than to another, then we’ll look at that. We’ve got great guys. I honestly don’t care who starts. To me, it’s about who’s closing. But I don’t want to mess with someone’s confidence if they are better starting than coming off the bench, either. My guess is they’ll both say they don’t care.”
The luxury for Few and the Zags is that they are versatile enough to go with a big, athletic frontline of Tillie, Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke — or a could stick the 6-foot-6 Kispert in there and bring Tillie off the bench.
BENNETT STAYS THE COURSE AFTER SLOW START
Tony Bennett’s ACC record in his first four seasons at Virginia: 32-34.
His record since: 75-17.
To put it into context: Both Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams have identical 65-27 marks in the same span.
Bennett struggled to gain his footing in Charlottesville his first four years after coming over from Washington State. The Cavaliers snuck into one NCAA tourney in 2012, but it wasn’t as if anyone was hailing him as one of the brightest young up-and-coming coaches in the game five years ago; he was coming off a four-year stretch in which he had one NCAA, an NIT and two years without any postseason at all.
But he didn’t get rattled or desperate and stayed the course, something he learned while watching his father, Dick Bennett, as a player at Green Bay and an assistant at both Wisconsin and Washington State.
“I saw how he did it, his patience and how he’d adapt, but he wouldn’t get sidetracked,” Tony Bennett said.
The elder Bennett was 5-23 his first season at Green Bay and had one winning season in his first four before going to three NCAA tourneys in his final five years. He was 20-28 in league play at Wisconsin before going to the NCAA tournament his final two seasons and the Final Four in 2000. Then he struggled at Washington State for three seasons before handing the reins to Tony when the program was in a spot to be able to turn it — as the Cougars went to the tourney the following two seasons.
“If you don’t see it play out in front of your eyes, you can get nervous,” Bennett added.
MASON’S NEW HOME
It’s easy to find Baylor’s Makai Mason.
“He’s always in the training room,” Bears coach Scott Drew half-joked.
“It’s true, it’s my home base. I eat lunch in there, pretty much do everything in there,” added Mason. “It’s a comfortable table, what can I say?”
Mason had just started to hit his stride as a sophomore at Yale when he averaged 16 points per game and went for 31 in a first-round upset over Baylor in the NCAA tourney. Then he dislocated his toe and broke a bone in his foot in a freak play in a closed scrimmage against Boston University in October. He had surgery, missed the entire 2016-17 campaign, and then suffered a setback when the bone didn’t heal and he needed a second surgery.
A stress fracture followed prior to the start of his junior campaign, and he finally came back and played a single game against Harvard in 2017-18, scoring eight points in 21 minutes on Feb. 17 before shutting it down after experiencing issues with his foot.
Mason already had his degree in political science and wanted to get healthy and see if he could play at the highest level. He wound up transferring to Baylor, and the injury bug hit again: He missed the first three games this season after suffering an ankle injury. In the last 11 games, Mason is averaging 15.1 points in 32 minutes per game, and he had 25 in Tuesday night’s upset over a ranked Iowa State team in Waco.
“I’m just thankful – every practice and every game – that I’m able to be out there and compete,” Mason said. “It’s kind of crazy that I wasn’t really able to play for two full years.”
BY THE NUMBERS
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee will have access to several metrics this year: the NET, RPI, KenPom, KPI, Sagarin, BPI and SOR. I decided to combine all six and come up with an overall numerical ranking to see who the numbers favor (Zion) — and who they don’t (Bobby Hurley). This did not include Tuesday or Wednesday night’s games.
3. Michigan State
8. North Carolina
9. Texas Tech
13. Virginia Tech
15. Mississippi State
17. Iowa State
18. Florida State
23. Ohio State
25. St. John’s
32. NC State
39. Ole Miss
42. Kansas State
48. Utah State
49. San Francisco
50. Arizona State
BRUNO’S UNLIKELY RETURN
Maryland expected that Kevin Huerter would be back, and that Bruno Fernando was history. There was even all sorts of speculation that Fernando had inked with an agent. Instead, it’s Huerter who is getting playing time in the NBA while the Terps’ big man opted to return to college and is validating his decision.
Known as a raw, athletic big man with below-average hands, Fernando has become a threat in the post. Not only have his hands improved, but he has begun to slow down when he gets the ball in the paint and is able to score with more than just power.
“He couldn’t catch the ball when he first got here,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said.
“I fumbled a lot of balls,” Fernando admitted.
NBA guys are still mixed on him, but most told Stadium they project him to go somewhere in the latter portion of the first round if he elects to leave Maryland after this season. But for now, the 6-foot-10, 240-pound native of Angola has been a major reason why the Terps are 13-3 and 4-1 in Big Ten play. He’s averaging a double-double (14.2 ppg, 10.1 rpg) while also making a huge impact with his energy and ability to alter and block shots on the defensive end.
Fernando admitted he was extremely close to leaving after last season, but that this was the right move — for the program and for him to be able to stay in the NBA once he gets there.
“Sometimes as freshmen, we think we know a lot of things that we don’t,” he said. “But I realized that another year or two would only help me get better, and it’s showing with the way I’m playing.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Delvon Roe was a can’t-miss guy, a top 10 player in the Class of 2008, an ultra-athletic forward who played hard and had an improving skill level.
Now he’s acting in Hollywood.
Roe suffered several knee injuries, including one his senior year of high school that required microfracture surgery, that forced him to retire with a year of eligibility left at Michigan State. Roe played three seasons in East Lansing and averaged 6.1 points and 5.1 boards in about 20 minutes per game.
Shortly after graduating, Roe moved out to Los Angeles in 2012 and has pursued acting. He’s also coaching high school basketball – last year at Ivy Academia and this season at Northridge Academy – and runs the Delvon Roe Basketball Academy, where he trains about 45 kids.
“It pays the bills and I can still chase my dreams,” Roe said.
Roe said his break into acting came as a result of his role in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” in 2010. He played the role of Charles the Wrestler in a 7 p.m. performance and then ran over and played in the Spartans’ game against South Carolina. A clip of the performance was shown on ESPN during the game and filmmaker Danny Mooney was watching and intrigued enough to reach out to Roe. He then cast Roe in a part in Love and Honor, which starred Liam Hemsworth and Teresa Palmer.
Roe said he usually auditions three or four times a month, and his most recent project was as an advisor/director in an adidas project.
“Sure, I still play the ‘what if’ game,” Roe said. “What if I sat out my freshman year and was able to recover completely? But I love what I’m doing now — acting, coaching and also training kids.”
– My biggest concern with Duke in its quest to win its sixth national title: perimeter shooting. Take away the first two games of the season – when the Blue Devils were a sizzling 27-of-62 from beyond the arc – and Duke is shooting less than 30 percent from long distance this season. R.J. Barrett has made just 3-of-21 from deep over the last four games, and is shooting less than 30 percent from 3 over the past dozen contests. Cam Reddish, who some considered a big-time shooter, is also shooting a tad under 30 percent from 3 in the last 12 games. Tre Jones has made just five 3’s over that span and is shooting 23 percent, and Zion Williamson – prior to the win over Wake – was 4-for-21 from beyond the arc. “I’d worry about them settling and going cold from the perimeter,” said one opposing coach. “But you have to do a great job of keeping them off the offensive glass.”
– No coach has done more in a more difficult spot over the last couple years than Chris Beard. Remember, Texas Tech is a job that ranked dead last in the Big 12 in our Chain of Command series. Beard went 27-10 a year ago and took the Red Raiders to the Elite Eight, and now Texas Tech is 14-1, 3-0 in league play and ranked in the top 10 despite losing five of its top six scorers from last season. The coolest part has been the road Beard has traveled to get back to Lubbock: ABA head coach/GM, McMurry (2012-13), Angelo State (2013-2015), Arkansas-Little Rock (2015-16) and an unforgettable two-week stint at UNLV.
– Wofford’s Fletcher Magee quietly became the SoCon’s all-time leading 3-point shooter last week, passing a guy named Stephen Curry. Magee ranks second in the country with 64 trifectas this season and is fifth in free throw percentage (94 percent). He ranks ninth on the NCAA’s all-time list in career 3’s with 415. He’s within reach of J.J. Redick, who checks in at No. 2 on the list with 457, but it would take a mammoth effort to overtake former Oakland guard Travis Bader, who is the all-time leader in 3’s made with 504.