May 16, 2018 / 8:21 PM / in 7 days

Pitino says adidas won battle to sponsor top prospect's AAU team

Five-star guard Romeo Langford thrilled fans in his home state when he committed to the Indiana Hoosiers in late April.

An Adidas logo is pictured on a basketball after the annual news conference at teh company's headquarters in the northern Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach, near Nuremberg March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Did a shoe company have an impact on that decision?

Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who was recruiting Langford when he was fired, said Wednesday that Langford’s father Tim had made it clear that he wanted to head up a team on the AAU circuit and whichever shoe company offered him the most money would have the inside track on where Romeo landed.

“The way they phrased it, it was whoever (shoe company) was going to pay the dad’s AAU program the most money, gets it,” Pitino told the Washington Post, which first reported the story. “That’s the way that world works. Which is completely legal, by the way.”

Each of the big three shoe companies — adidas, Under Armour and Nike — runs an AAU sponsorship program.

In January 2017, adidas announced the formation of new AAU team Twenty Two Vision, with Romeo Langford as the star player and, reportedly, Tim Langford as the director.

Indiana’s basketball program is sponsored by adidas, which is no coincidence, per Pitino.

He says two adidas officials told him they were meeting with Tim Langford in January 2017 to help make sure he stayed associated with the brand.

“What they said to me (was) they’re doing everything possible to keep Romeo Langford’s team on the (adidas) AAU circuit,” Pitino said, per the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Pitino was fired in October in the fallout from an FBI investigation into bribery and fraud in college basketball. Pitino has said he wasn’t aware of an alleged payment from a Louisville assistant to the family of recruit Brian Bowen.

Pitino sued for $38.7 million in November, arguing there is nothing in a federal criminal complaint unsealed in September that tied him to any improper activities. The school countered with a suit against Pitino last month seeking damages from vacated games and bonuses.

Pitino is also suing adidas, alleging the apparel company’s employees harmed his reputation when they allegedly participated in a scheme to funnel money to recruits.

Langford ranks fourth in state history with 3,002 career points at New Albany (Ind.) High School, and he averaged 35.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.0 steals as a senior while shooting 56 percent from the 3-point line.

He was the consensus top recruit in the country who had yet to commit to a school. Early projections for the 2019 NBA Draft have pegged Langford as a potential top-five prospect.

The other finalists were Kansas (also an adidas school) and Vanderbilt (Nike).

—Field Level Media

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