Ayton latest player linked to NCAA scandal

A former Adidas consultant testified Wednesday that he paid the family of 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick Deandre Ayton and the families of four other players in an attempt to influence them.

The testimony of T.J. Gassnola marked the first time the jury has heard the name of Ayton, now with the Phoenix Suns.

The government called Gassnola as a witness as part of its wire fraud case against Adidas executive James Gatto, Adidas consultant Merl Code Jr. and runner Christian Dawkins. Gassnola is expected back on the stand Thursday as the trial concerning allegations of corruption in college basketball continues.

Gassnola, who had run the Adidas-sponsored AAU New England Playaz program since 2004 and began as an Adidas consultant in 2013, already has entered a guilty plea to wire fraud. Under the terms of his plea agreement, he must testify in the ongoing case.

He testified Wednesday that he also paid the families of Dennis Smith Jr., Brian Bowen II and Billy Preston, as well as the guardian of Silvio De Sousa. His testimony detailed an agreement he had with Brian Bowen Sr. to steer his son to the Adias-sponsored Michigan Mustangs program in exchange for $25,000.

“I told [Dawkins] I would get it done and take care of it,” Gassnola told the jury.

Bowen Sr. last week acknowledged the agreement when he took the stand. His son now plays professionally in Australia.

Gassnola has not yet detailed the payments to the other players. Of them, only De Sousa is still in college, playing at Kansas.

Also Wednesday, Jeff Smith, the senior director of compliance at Kansas, denied being aware of a payment of $90,000 to Preston’s family or $20,000 to De Sousa’s guardian.

De Sousa remains eligible to play. Preston enrolled at Kansas, but he left the program after the NCAA launched an investigation into a traffic accident he was involved in last fall.