During Brian Bowen II’s recruitment in the late spring of 2017, his handler, Christian Dawkins, made dozens of telephone calls to various assistant college basketball coaches courting the player — one of the last available five-star prospects.
In the final weeks before Bowen II’s father agreed to accept $100,000 from Adidas to ensure that his son signed with the University of Louisville, Dawkins also made and received calls with phone numbers associated with at least two Division I head coaches — Arizona’s Sean Miller and Creighton’s Greg McDermott.
An Outside the Lines analysis of Dawkins’ cellphone records from May 3, 2017, to July 2, 2017, show there were at least 13 phone calls involving a cell number belonging to Miller and at least nine calls with McDermott’s phone number. All but three of those calls were placed between May 8, 2017, and June 1, 2017, when Bowen II committed to the Cardinals.
The records show that each of the calls Dawkins made to or received from the number associated with Miller lasted at least five minutes; there were five calls longer than 10 minutes with McDermott’s number. There were also several calls and voicemails that lasted one minute that weren’t included in the aforementioned totals.
Dawkins, a former runner for an NBA agent, was one of three men convicted on Wednesday by a jury in New York on federal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud related to pay-for-play schemes to send high-profile recruits to Adidas-sponsored schools.
Dawkins’ cellphone records analyzed by Outside the Lines are pulled from evidentiary files from trial. The thousands of calls shed light not only on coaches at multiple schools vying for Bowen II, including Creighton, Arizona, Louisville, Oregon and DePaul, but also on Dawkins’ role as chief facilitator in the negotiations for Bowen II and several other prized prospects. One of those prospects was Balsa Koprivica, who received a scholarship offer from LSU coach Will Wade just days after a series of calls between phone numbers associated with Wade and Dawkins, according to the call records. When pieced together with court testimony and transcripts of selected calls that were entered into evidence, the call records provide a fuller picture of the depth of the pay-for-play scheme.
According to court records, the FBI monitored Dawkins’ cellphone from at least June 19, 2017, until Sept. 25, 2017. An FBI agent testified that calls involving a second cellphone Dawkins had, which prosecutors referred to as his “bat phone,” were not intercepted via wiretaps. Prosecutors also couldn’t retrieve text messages from the second phone because it was password-protected. The government has released some but not all of his phone records and wiretap recordings.
What has been released, though, shows that Dawkins made or received nearly 3,000 calls during the two-month period.
Most emblematic of Dawkins’ ability to play air traffic controller for multiple programs and recruits was what was revealed through phone calls, transcripts and testimony about his dealings with Arizona about multiple recruits. For example, on an Aug. 10, 2017, phone call that was recorded, Dawkins told former Adidas consultant Thomas “T.J.” Gassnola about a discussion he’d had with AAU program director Brad Augustine about sending coveted high school recruit Nassir Little to Arizona, a Nike school.
“Well, he had me talk to [head coach] Sean [Miller]. He told me he talked to Sean,” Dawkins was recorded as saying. “… It’s going to be difficult to go to Adidas and say, ‘Listen, you need X, Y, Z to really run the state of Florida if you’re [expletive] sending a kid that you just had to one of the elite Nike schools.'”
Defense attorneys suggested during the trial that Arizona offered — or was prepared to offer — $150,000 for Little to sign with the Wildcats. The government and defense attorneys agreed that the money wasn’t requested on behalf of Little’s family. Little is a freshman at North Carolina.
ESPN reported in February that Dawkins and Miller had discussions about a $100,000 payment that ensured that star center Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA draft, signed with the Wildcats.
In a statement on Feb. 25, Arizona’s outside counsel, Paul Kelly of Boston, said Ayton “credibly and consistently maintained that neither he nor any member of his family” received money to influence his decision during multiple interviews with federal prosecutors, the FBI and NCAA. At the time, Miller denied the allegations — and adamantly insisted he had never willfully broken NCAA rules.
“I have never knowingly violated NCAA rules while serving as head coach of this great program,” Miller said, while reading from a statement on March 1. “I have never paid a recruit or prospect or their family or representative to come to Arizona. I never have and I never will. I have never arranged or directed payment or any improper benefits to a recruit or a prospect or their family or representative, and I never will.”
Miller did say then someone once asked him to provide payment to a player, but he declined to do it. It’s unclear if he was referring to Dawkins.
“The one time that someone suggested to me paying a player to come to the University of Arizona, I did not agree to do it,” Miller said. “It never happened, and that player did not come to the University of Arizona.”
Miller could not be reached for comment on Sunday; the university issued a statement saying, “The University of Arizona is aware of the information that has appeared in media reports regarding the just completed trial in New York. We are continuing to review the matter and will take such steps as are deemed necessary and appropriate based upon credible and reliable evidence. Out of respect for the judicial and administrative processes involved, we have no further comment at this time.”
Gassnola, who was a cooperating witness for the government during the corruption trial, testified that he gave $15,000 to a friend of Ayton’s family to deliver to his mother while Ayton was in high school. In a text message Gassnola sent to Kansas coach Bill Self, Gassnola expressed disappointment that he couldn’t help deliver Ayton to the Jayhawks.
Arizona officials have denied multiple open-records requests from ESPN for any subpoenas the university received from the federal government for information and grand jury testimony related to the investigation. They also have declined to provide Miller’s cellphone records and his correspondence with university officials. They repeatedly cited “the balancing test established by the Arizona courts to protect the best interests of the state” in their refusal to release the records.
Outside the Lines verified the phone numbers entered into evidence by using online resources and calling the phones. Many of the numbers were used previously by ESPN reporters to contact the coaches.
During the three-week corruption trial, Adidas executive James Gatto’s defense attorney, Michael Schachter, unsuccessfully tried to enter into evidence the fact that the FBI didn’t record a handful of calls between Dawkins and Miller, even though he said Miller was listed as a “target” of the wiretaps.
“There are a number of calls that occurred that the defendants had with people that are very relevant to this investigation, and for whatever reason those calls simply were not recorded at all,” Schachter told U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan. “We can demonstrate that. For example, there are multiple calls with one of the targets of the wiretap, a person who was mentioned in opening statement, Sean Miller, who is a coach at the University of Arizona.”
During Brian Bowen Sr.’s testimony on Oct. 4, he told the jury that a handful of colleges, including Arizona, Creighton, Oklahoma State and Texas, offered him tens of thousands of dollars in cash and other improper benefits for his son to play basketball at those schools.
“Schools would give me money for a top player, like my son, to go to school,” Brian Bowen Sr. said.
He testified that Dawkins relayed the alleged offers from assistant coaches to him. Dawkins and Brian Bowen Sr. had been longtime friends from Saginaw, Michigan.
According to Brian Bowen Sr., Dawkins told him that Arizona assistant coach Joe Pasternack offered $50,000; Oklahoma State assistant coach Lamont Evans offered $150,000 cash, $80,000 for a car and additional money to buy a house; Texas assistant coach Mike Morrell offered to “help me with housing;” and Creighton assistant coach Preston Murphy offered $100,000 and a “good job, a lucrative job.”
Pasternack and Morrell are now the head coaches at UC Santa Barbara and UNC Asheville.
Dawkins’ phone records also show repeated calls to and from a cell number belonging to Murphy, who also grew up in Saginaw. According to the records, Dawkins had 59 calls with Murphy’s cell number between May 4, 2017, and July 3, 2017, including 32 before Bowen II committed to Louisville.
The nine calls involving Creighton’s McDermott’s number started on May 8, 2017, and ended on June 22, 2017. There was a 28-minute call on May 8, 29 minutes on May 20 and 16 minutes on May 24, according to the records.
Of the nearly 3,000 telephone calls that were either made or received by Dawkins’ cellphone during the two-month period, the most frequent number belongs to former Creighton star Justin Patton, a 7-foot center who played one season for the Bluejays before turning pro in 2017. He is a second-year player with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In a Sept. 5, 2017, email that Dawkins sent to Munish Sood, a New Jersey financial adviser who had planned to be Dawkins’ partner in a future business, Dawkins wrote that he already had a signed contract with Patton’s twin brother, Kendall.
“After the 2 year non-compete, we would receive 3% of his team deal, 20% of his marketing. Kendall would receive a monthly advance against future commissions of $2,000 a month,” the email read. In one of the recorded calls from August 2017, he said Patton’s brother would “also help and try to get other guys that’s in the area he’s in.”
Patton signed with ASM Sports, but fired agent Andy Miller after details of the scandal broke in September 2017.
In a joint statement Sunday afternoon, Creighton athletics director Bruce Rasmussen and McDermott referenced the federal trial and said “The university is working jointly with the NCAA to evaluate the matter and will continue to work within the association’s processes. We will have no further comment until that process is completed.”
Brian Bowen Sr. testified during the trial that his son favored Arizona, but they were worried about more experienced players being ahead of him. After Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins returned to Arizona for the 2017-18 season and Donovan Mitchell left Louisville for the NBA, Brian Bowen Sr. said Dawkins approached him about the possibility of Bowen II playing for the Cardinals.
In a text message exchange between Dawkins and Brian Bowen Sr. on April 12, 2017, Dawkins texts, “Trier is returning,” to which Brian Bowen Sr. replies, “U call Shawn (sic) back if so what he say?” And in a message later Dawkins replies, “He’s trying to sell saying trier can be played with and it’s a good situation.”
A phone number belonging to Miller called Dawkins’ phone on May 8, 2017, and the call lasted 18 minutes, according to the records. There were 11 more calls involving Miller’s number before Bowen II picked the Cardinals, including a 14-minute call on May 19, 12 minutes on May 20 and 13 minutes on May 21.
Dawkins called a number assigned to Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson, who is charged in a related federal criminal case with six felonies, at least 16 times between May 5, 2017, and June 26, 2017.
Evidence presented by the government during this month’s trial revealed Dawkins also claimed to be closely associated with Alkins, who was a two-year starting guard at Arizona before turning pro after this past season. He went undrafted and signed a two-way deal with the Chicago Bulls in July.
In the Sept. 5, 2017, email Dawkins sent to Sood, he detailed payments he planned to make to Alkins and his cousin, Rodney Labossiere. Labossiere, who grew up with Alkins in New York, moved to Tucson, Arizona, in September 2017, according to property records reviewed by Outside the Lines.
Dawkins wrote that he planned to pay Alkins $2,500 per month from September 2017 through April 2018 — when Alkins was still playing for Arizona — plus $30,000 in travel expenses for his family. He also wanted to give Labossiere a four-year deal to work as a manager for his sports management company.
“Rodney will get 25% of net income we generate from Rawle as well as additional players he brings in moving forward,” Dawkins wrote. “Rodney has a bonus structure in his contract as well for delivering players at [$]10,000 for a first round pick. $2,000 for a second round pick.”
Dawkins’ phone records show that there were 33 calls made to a number belonging to Labossiere from May 7, 2017, through July 2, 2017.
The government’s complaint in the Book Richardson case, which is slated to go to trial in April, includes reference to a June 20, 2017, meeting in a New York hotel room, which was recorded and videotaped by the FBI. During that meeting, according to the government’s complaint, Richardson “further committed to steer a particular student-athlete [“Player-6″] who was on the men’s basketball team at [Arizona] to Dawkins and his company, stating, ‘I’m telling you [Dawkins is] getting [Player-6] … there’s no if, ands about that. I’ve already talked with [Player-6’s] mom, I’ve talked with his cousin.”
On July 5, 2017, according to the complaint, Dawkins asked an undercover FBI agent, who was posing as a potential business partner, for an additional $15,000 payment for Richardson to influence another player — current Villanova freshman Jahvon Quinerly — to sign with Arizona.
In another phone call two days later, Dawkins told the undercover agent that if the agent “could get this thing done … [the head coach of Arizona] is talking out of his mouth, he wants [Quinerly] bad as [expletive]. So, I mean, the leverage I have with the program would be ridiculous at that point.”
Quinerly committed to Arizona on Aug. 8, 2017, and then changed his mind after Richardson and nine others were arrested in late September 2017.
The phone records also reveal that Dawkins had contact with cellphone numbers assigned to several other assistant coaches, including Western Kentucky’s Shammond Williams, DePaul’s Shane Heirman, Louisville’s Kenny Johnson and Oregon’s Tony Stubblefield. None could be reached for comment Sunday.
DePaul hired Heirman, who coached Bowen II at the La Lumiere School in La Porte, Indiana, on May 2, 2017. Brian Bowen Sr. testified during the criminal trial that he received $8,000 from Heirman while his son was playing at the exclusive private school. Dawkins’ phone records show the first of many calls with a number assigned to Heirman taking place on May 10.
In an email that former Louisville coach Rick Pitino is said to have sent to Johnson one day after Bowen II’s commitment, Pitino told Johnson, who is now at La Salle, that DePaul made a $200,000 offer for him.
Defense attorneys also suggested during opening arguments of the corruption trial that Oregon had offered an “astronomical amount of money” for Bowen II to sign with the Ducks. Dawkins’ attorney, Steven Haney, also asked Brian Bowen Sr. in court about an alleged $3,000 payment from Stubblefield during his son’s unofficial visit to Eugene, Oregon. Brian Bowen Sr. said he didn’t recall the payment.
Williams unexpectedly resigned from WKU in early July 2017, and Louisville fired Johnson shortly after the pay-for-play scheme involving Bowen II was exposed.
Dawkins also had at least three phone calls with a cellphone number belonging to LSU coach Will Wade, each of which occurred between June 19, 2017, and June 30, 2017, after Bowen II committed to Louisville.
At SEC media day this month, Wade told the SEC Network that he never discussed providing improper benefits to a player with Dawkins.
“What I will say is that I’m very proud of everything I’ve done as the LSU basketball coach,” Wade said. “I have never, ever, done any business of any kind with Christian Dawkins.”
Casey Donnelly, one of Gatto’s attorneys, tried to introduce a wiretap recording of a call between Wade and Dawkins during the trial. She did not provide a date of the call. According to the transcript that Donnelly read without the jury present, Dawkins called Wade and inquired about LSU’s interest in Koprivica, a 7-foot center from Montverde, Florida.
“So you said to me in Atlanta there was a 2019 kid I wanted to recruit, they can get him to LSU, you would have funded,” Dawkins told Wade, according to Donnelly. “Would you want Balsa?”
“Oh, the big kid?” Wade asked.
“Yeah,” Dawkins confirmed.
“OK. But there’s other [expletive] involved in it,” Wade said. “I have got to shut my door … Here’s my thing: I can get you what you need, but it’s got to work.” On June 21, 2017, Koprivica tweeted: “Blessed to say I have received an offer from LSU.”
LSU officials had previously told ESPN that Wade’s phone records didn’t show any calls with two cellphone numbers Dawkins used between June 1, 2017, and Oct. 1, 2017. The number in Dawkins’ cellphone records are from a phone using a Richmond, Virginia-based area code; Wade coached at Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond before LSU hired him. It’s unclear which phone number assigned to Wade was used in the LSU search.
Koprivica, who is ranked the No. 42 prospect in the 2019 ESPN 100, committed to Florida State on Friday.
Dawkins declined to comment through his attorney, Steve Haney, who said he plans on appealing Dawkins’ conviction. Dawkins is also a defendant in the April trial that involves Book Richardson, Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans and USC’s Tony Bland. Former Auburn assistant Chuck Person and former NBA referee Rashan Michel are scheduled for trial in February.