Adidas may have played a role in steering blue-chip basketball recruit Romeo Langford to Indiana, the Washington Post’s Will Hobson reported in an article published Wednesday.
Langford, a 6-foot-5 senior shooting guard from New Albany (Ind.) High School, recently chose Indiana over fellow Adidas school Kansas — and Nike school Vanderbilt — in recruiting. Earlier in the recruiting process, he considered Adidas school Louisville, Nike school Kentucky as well as Under Armour school UCLA and others.
Hobson’s story — and also a story in the Louisville Courier-Journal — detailed a financial relationship allegedly between Adidas and an AAU program (Twenty Two Vision) directed by Tim Langford, father of the McDonald’s All American.
Adidas, according to former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who was quoted extensively in the Post and Courier-Journal stories, agreed to fund the AAU program to maintain its influence with Romeo, ostensibly over companies Nike and Under Armour.
Shoe company sponsorships, the Washington Post story reported, can reach $100,000 to $150,000. Team directors, the paper said, are not breaking NCAA rules if they pay themselves salaries from those amounts.
Pitino told the Louisville Courier-Journal on Wednesday: “I don’t think they did anything wrong,” referring to Adidas officials sponsoring Twenty Two Vision, Langford’s AAU program, the summer before his senior year of high school. The program did not field a team this current AAU season.
Pitino added to the C-J: "I think they did what they’re supposed to do. They’re trying to keep a great player on their circuit (instead of going to Under Armour or Nike) and that’s all they’re doing. That’s the free market. That’s what they do. A lot of times they waste a lot of money on programs that are not going to (have players) play in the NBA.”
Pitino told the Washington Post it is “completely legal, by the way (for Adidas to fund the team).”
Tim Langford told the Post he did not take any payments and stressed that Nike programs (Vandy, Duke, Kentucky) and Under Armour school UCLA also heavily recruited his son.
“It wasn’t about money for us. Our son ... his time will come if he stays blessed and stays healthy,” Tim Langford told the Post.
Post reporter Hobson wrote that Tim Langford offered to connect him with Jonathan Jeanty, a friend he said handled the finances for Twenty Two Vision. The paper has been unable to reach Jeanty or Langford since that offer was made. Officials with Adidas, Nike and Under Armour declined to comment to the paper.
Pitino said in a radio interview Wednesday he believed the Langford family did not seek any money in recruiting. Pitino said he did speak with Adidas reps Jim Gatto and T.J. Gassnola in January 2017 to discuss Langford. Pitino said neither discussed illegal payments but did mention funding for Langford’s new AAU team.
“Gassnola and Gatto both knew if they ever mentioned anything illegal with me, paying a kid, that would be the end of the conversation and Adidas would no longer represent the University of Louisville,” Pitino said in the Post article.
The NCAA would not comment when asked by various media outlets to clarify what is illegal and what’s legal regarding payments to AAU programs.
This situation of paying directors of AAU teams is not unprecedented at all.
According to Hobson’s article, “this past season, the NCAA found no problems with the relationship between Nike and Marvin Bagley Jr., father of likely 2018 NBA draft lottery pick Marvin Bagley III. When Bagley III was 16 and establishing himself as one of the top prospects in the country, Nike agreed to sponsor his youth team, coached and managed by Bagley’s father. In 2016, Bagley Jr. acknowledged in an interview with Sports Illustrated that the Nike sponsorship was the family’s main source of income. This past school year, Bagley III played his only college season at Duke, a Nike-sponsored school, and he is widely expected to sign an endorsement deal with the company.”
The Indianapolis Star also issued its take on the situation on Wednesday.
Stanley down to six schools
Cassius Stanley, a 6-5 senior-to-be shooting guard from Sierra Canyon High in North Hollywood, Calif., has narrowed his list of schools to six, he reported on Twitter. The schools are: Kansas, Arizona, USC, UCLA, Oregon and Texas.
“Cassius Stanley might be the most explosive athlete to come out of Southern California in over 20 years and he has all the tools to be not only an electrifying athlete but also an established winning basketball player,” reads the ESPN.com scouting report on Stanley. “Ultimately, he can be as good as he wants to be and his work ethic, focus, and passion will play a key role.”