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FBI wiretap: Miller 'fronted' deal for Ayton

Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller “fronted” the deal to get Deandre Ayton to the school, agent runner Christian Dawkins said on an FBI wiretap investigating corruption in college basketball.

FILE PHOTO: Feb 17, 2019; Boulder, CO, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller during the second half against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Coors Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

The call was intercepted on June 2, 2017 with Dawkins discussing the situation with business partner Munish Sood.

The wiretap was played Monday in the trial in New York, with Sood saying that he and Dawkins were already paying then-Arizona assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson to influence Wildcats’ players and recruits to sign with their sports management company.

A big target was Ayton, who ended up signing with Arizona and playing one season before becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.

“He’s already made it clear you’re gonna get, or we’re gonna get, the No. 1 pick next year, assuming he’s No. 1,” Sood said of Richardson in reference to Ayton during the call.”

Said Dawkins: “It’s going to be more money than what they, what Book said, I mean because I talked to Sean. Sean’s the one that fronted that deal. So it’s going to be some money, but I mean we’ll figure that out.”

In February 2018, when allegations were first reported that Miller was involved with paying Ayton, he vehemently denied it.

“Let me be very, very clear: I have never discussed with Christian Dawkins paying Deandre Ayton to attend the University of Arizona,” Miller said. “In fact, I had never even met or spoke to Christian Dawkins until after Deandre publicly announced that he was coming to our school. Any reporting to the contrary is inaccurate, false and defamatory.”

Wiretaps also caught a discussion about recruit Jahvon Quinerly, who eventually signed with Villanova. He decided earlier this month to transfer.

In July 2017, Richardson requested $15,000 from Dawkins and Sood to give to Quinerly’s mother. He indicated he would make three payments of $5,000 apiece and also planned to pay her $10,000 out of his own pocket.

“So mom is like, ‘How’s this gonna work? I wanna move to Tucson,’ ” Richardson told Sood and an undercover FBI agent during a July 20, 2017 meeting at Sood’s office in Princeton, N.J. “So I said, ‘Look, you don’t want to move to Tucson. It’s a nice vacation spot. It’s hot.’

“This is what I’ll do. This is what I can do for you to put you in a situation to move to Tucson. ... I don’t want the NCAA to (bleep) with us. You should take two or three more visits and then shut it down. And then as soon as you do that, you commit.”

Richardson was one of 10 people arrested by the FBI in September 2017. He pleaded guilty in federal court in January to a federal funds bribery charge.

Meanwhile, Richardson told undercover FBI agents that LSU coach Will Wade attempted to hire him when the two schools were battling to land recruit Nazreon Reid, who eventually chose LSU.

According to Richardson, Wade told him, “Look, there’s a deal in place. I got $300,000 for him.”

Wade was recently reinstated as LSU coach after serving a suspension of more than five weeks. The discipline was in relationship to FBI wiretaps catching him complaining that a strong offer to then-recruit Javonte Smart hadn’t been accepted. Smart eventually signed with the Tigers.

--Field Level Media