Silvio De Sousa and Bill Self on De Sousa’s eligibility in light of Adidas trial
The following is a timeline of events regarding the recruitment of Kansas basketball players Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa, based on federal indictments of Adidas employees, court documents and testimony, and published news reports.
Sept. 30, 2016 — Recruit Billy Preston attends Kansas basketball’s annual Late Night in the Phog as part of his official visit to KU. He stays at the Oread Hotel in Lawrence along with his mother, Nicole Player, and her partner, Timicha Kirby. After Late Night, Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola, in his room at the Oread, meets with Player and Kirby and tells them to not take money from other people and instead go to him, as he believed he could conceal the payments better. Gassnola testified he did not give Player and Kirby money that night.
Oct. 1, 2016 — On the way from Lawrence to the airport with Adidas executive Jim Gatto, who also attended Late Night, Gassnola discusses the previous night’s conversation with Player and Kirby and the potential for future payments to them. Gassnola testified that Gatto told him, “OK, do what you got to do.”
Oct. 31, 2016 — Gassnola makes a $30,000 payment to Preston and Kirby at a New York hotel. Gassnola testifies that he told Gatto that Preston’s family had gotten money from them and that the family was “in a good place.”
Nov. 9, 2016 — According to court testimony from KU director of compliance Jeff Smith, Preston signs his national letter of intent and financial aid agreement with KU.
Nov. 18, 2016 — In a live video, Preston announces his commitment to KU. He tells reporters he signed his letter of intent before the end of the early signing period, which ran Nov. 8-15.
Jan. 19, 2017 — Gassnola withdraws $27,500 from his New England Playaz AAU program bank account. After that, Player meets Gassnola at his hotel, The SLS in Las Vegas. While they are together, Gassnola hands Player $20,000 cash in an envelope. He testified the money came from Adidas.
Feb. 22, 2017 — KU defeats TCU, 87-68, at Allen Fieldhouse, clinching its 13th straight Big 12 title. The same day, according to Gatto defense attorney Casey E. Donnelly, KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend texts Gatto to thank him for all he’s done for KU.
Feb. 24, 2017 — Gassnola instructs his fiancee to wire $20,000 to Kirby. Gassnola testified that Player, Kirby’s partner, “seemed to be in dire straights for the money.”
June 14, 2017 — Gassnola wires $15,000 from his New England Playaz account to Player. Gassnola testified he discussed the payment with Gatto.
July 28, 2017 — Preston signs a compliance information form, which Smith testifies includes information about family members and vehicles.
Aug. 8, 2017 — Townsend texts Gassnola contact information for Fenny Falmagne, the guardian of then-recruit Silvio De Sousa, now a KU sophomore.
Aug. 9, 2017 — Gassnola texts Townsend about Falmagne, “Hit me when you can,” and Townsend replies, “Coach Self just talked to Fenny. Let me know how it goes.” Gassnola also texts KU head coach Bill Self, saying he talked with Falmagne. Self asked “we good” over text, and Gassnola replies “always,” saying this was light work and the ball was in Falmagne’s court now. That same day, Gassnola texts Self to call him when he had five minutes and he was alone. The two have a five-minute, six-second phone conversation. The call was not wiretapped by the FBI nor played in court. Gatto’s defense attorney Michael S. Schachter asked Gassnola if he could recall what he and Self talked about. “I don’t,” Gassnola said.
Aug. 15, 2017 — Player texts Gassnola to say she has bought her son a Dodge Charger and is driving it to him. “You’re a great mama,” Gassnola texts back.
Aug. 19, 2017 — Days before KU Athletics announced a 12-year contract extension with Adidas (the extension would not be signed and made official until 2019), Gassnola texted Self to tell him thank you for helping to get that extension done. Self replied via text that he was happy with Adidas and wrote, “Just got to get a couple real guys.” Gassnola responded with a text that said, “In my mind, it’s KU, Bill Self. Everyone else fall into line. Too (expletive) bad. That’s what’s right for Adidas basketball. And I know I’m right. The more you win, have lottery picks and you happy. That’s how it should work in my mind.” Self replied by text, “That’s how ur (sic) works. At UNC and Duke.” Gassnola answered by saying Kentucky as well. “I promise you I got this. I have never let you down. Except (Deandre). Lol. We will get it right.” In this case, Gassnola was referring to top-five recruit Deandre Ayton. Gassnola testified in federal court that he felt he let Self down when Ayton chose Arizona instead of KU (on Sept. 6, 2016).
Aug. 26, 2017 — Townsend texted Gassnola a message he said was from Falmagne: “Coach has been on the phone with Angola. We are good to go. We will commit tomorrow.” Gassnola testified that he’d been in communication with Townsend about Falmagne because Falmagne was looking to get Adidas gear for the Angolan national team. Gassnola said he’d follow up the next day with Falmagne, with Townsend texting him, “Thank you.” Gatto’s attorneys tried, but failed, to have evidence submitted that showed the Angolan national team wearing Nike uniforms.
Aug. 30, 2017 — De Sousa commits to KU.
Aug. 31, 2017 — Self has a five-minute phone conversation with Gatto from 4:21 to 4:26 p.m. Central time. This was during a time the FBI was wiretapping Gatto, but the conversation was not recorded because of a “technical issue.”
The week of Sept. 3, 2017 — Gassnola testifies he and his fiancee have dinner with Self and his wife, Cindy, before the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction in Springfield, Mass. Gassnola testified that Self paid for the dinner.
Sept. 8, 2017 — Self is inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Sept. 14, 2017 — Townsend has a phone conversation with former AAU coach Merl Code, where they discuss the compensation needed to bring in recruit Zion Williamson.
Sept. 22, 2017 — Gassnola texts Player to say he is sending $4,000 to her account. Gassnola says he discussed the transaction with Gatto.
Sept. 26, 2017 — Gatto and Code are arrested and indicted as federal prosecutors announce their findings into the corruption involved in college basketball recruiting. Gassnola says he first hears about the FBI’s investigation on this day.
Sometime after Sept. 26, 2017 — Gassnola again spoke with Player, who was, according to Gassnola’s testimony, concerned KU was “going to find out about the money that I had given her.” Gassnola testified that Player wanted him to tell KU officials they were in an intimate relationship, which would have made the payments allowable under NCAA rules. Asked if it was accurate that he was in a relationship with Player, Gassnola said no.
Nov. 10, 2017 — Self suspends Preston from the regular-season opener against Tennessee State while citing a violation of team rules. Self said Preston missed curfew the night before, then didn’t attend class the day of the game because he had to pick up his car, which was illegally parked in town.
Nov. 13, 2017 — Preston texted his mother three times, saying: “The NCAA dude just came to my floor. He said something about my car and how it’s bought in FL and all that. Text me back!” Player responded in a series of four messages: “Tell him you don’t know where it was bought. Your mom and nana handled that. You don’t know. IDC what they say to you.” The next four words were each in separate texts for emphasis: “YOU. DONT. KNOW. KNOW.” “GOT YOU,” Preston responded. Player replied once more: “If they ask you about a person say.. ‘I don’t know’ ... ‘I would have to see their face.’”
Nov. 14, 2017 — Just before KU’s game in the Champions Classic against Kentucky, the athletic department announces Preston will not be available while the compliance department looks into the “financial picture” regarding his Dodge Charger. KU said the investigation began after Preston was involved in a single-vehicle, non-injury incident on KU’s campus three days earlier that damaged his car.
Nov. 16, 2017 — Gassnola has a text message conversation with Player about him being ineligible. Gassnola told Player he planned to forward a letter from his attorney to KU’s lawyers stating he had not paid Preston or his family. Gassnola testified in federal court that statement would have been a lie.
Dec. 5, 2017 — The government interviews Gassnola to ask him about potential payments to De Sousa.
Dec. 27, 2017 — De Sousa signs his compliance information form.
Sometime before January 2018 — Gassnola said he overnighted a $2,500 payment to Falmagne — putting it in an envelope inside a magazine — so De Sousa could have money to take online classes. Gassnola testified that he also originally offered Falmagne $20,000 to help him get out of a previous arrangement with a Maryland booster, who was paying Falmagne $60,000 with the expectation being that De Sousa would attend Maryland. Gassnola said he never ended up making that $20,000 payment to Falmagne, though, because he was worried about the FBI’s investigation into college basketball.
Jan. 2, 2018 — Player defends her son Preston on Twitter, saying she was “sick of watching people bash my child but if he suited up tomorrow he’d be the next coming of Jesus Christ to you guys.” She also stated, “Not only that ... if I had anything to hide ... I could’ve pulled him in November. This is taxing and stressful. But he’s there, being supportive, he hasn’t bailed on his team. He’s cheering and coaching and doing all he can.” When someone agreed with her position, Player replied with this: “I don’t think they understand. Billy is 6’10” 240 lbs ... I could’ve sent him overseas in Nov. when this started, he would’ve been an instant millionaire and a 1st round pick . I allowed the NCAA in my personal life for Kansas. Guilty people don’t do that.”
Jan. 13, 2018 — De Sousa is cleared to play by the NCAA and appears for four minutes in KU’s 73-72 home victory over Kansas State.
Jan. 20, 2018 — Preston signs professionally with a Bosnian team and leaves KU. He sat out KU’s first game after missing curfew and class, according to Self, and the next 16 while KU investigated his car and payments made to his family.
Jan. 20, 2018 — Zion Williamson commits to Duke over KU, South Carolina and Clemson.
March 31, 2018 — KU makes its 15th Final Four appearance at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Preston and Player sit in the stands next to the bench to support the team in the Jayhawks’ 95-79 loss to Villanova.
April 10, 2018 — Federal prosecutors announce a superseding indictment, filing new charges against Gatto that allege he was among a group who conspired to make $90,000 in payments to Preston’s family and also agreed to make a payment to De Sousa’s legal guardian Falmagne.
April 11, 2018 — In a text message with The Star, Falmagne said that neither he nor De Sousa accepted any payments alleged by the government: “He did not take any money. We did not take any money. The kids and I never took money from anyone. This is bigger than basketball. These kids and I have sacrificed so much because we know this could change our countries and nation. Anyone that knows me will know that coach Larry Brown is the only person that I take advice from because who he means to me and the kids. He told me, ‘Fenny, the people at Kansas are good people and will help Silvio achieve his dream.’ And look what it did listening to him. Made it to the Final Four and got significantly better.”
Oct. 10, 2018 — While the Adidas trial is ongoing, Self and De Sousa both say they expect De Sousa to play this season for the Jayhawks. Gassnola, a government witness, testifies in New York he made concealed payments on behalf of Adidas to the families of five elite basketball prospects, including De Sousa, Preston and Ayton. Gassnola says no KU coaches knew about the payments. Smith also testifies.
Oct. 11, 2018 — Gassnola’s testimony continues.
Oct. 15, 2018 — Text messages from Self and Townsend to Gassnola are shown at trial.
Oct. 16, 2018 — A defense attorney discusses part of a wiretapped phone call between Gatto and Townsend regarding the financial requests from Williamson’s family.
Reporting by The Star’s Gary Bedore and correspondent Adam Zagoria were used in this story.