In a story that is both EXPLOSIVE and grimly predictable, USA Today has uncovered a money trail that leads to questions about Ben McLemore’s amateurism, nee, SHAMateurism (right?) during last season’s run to the Sweet 16. In the story, McLemore probably received money from a prospective agent that was funneled through Darius Cobb, McLemore’s AAU coach from St. Louis. Well, the part where the high-profile freshman actually received any money isn’t actually covered. In fact, the quite literal reading of the story (go ahead, try it out) just says that Cobb and one of McLemore’s cousins received money to steer the player towards Rodney Blackstock and his Hooplife Academy. I’m not entirely clear on what Hooplife Academy would do with that influence but it probably wouldn’t be a good look for the hopeful charity org and their quest to be North Carolina’s most trusted charity. Also, I’m unclear on why Richard Boyd (McLemore’s cousin) and Darius Cobb were taking free trips to Los Angeles. From a standpoint of NCAA eligibility and retroactive loss thereof, the only point of interest to the NCAA would be whether or not Boyd accepted money and gifts that he received as a result of being Ben McLemore’s cousin. So this isn’t the most damnable offense in the history of sacrosanct rules regarding players and being paid. It’s a little bit of smoke somewhere out on the plain but there is a lot to figure out if you want to trace a fire there.
“Coach, I got money for being good at basketball!” “Haha, I’m wearing a hairpiece!”
In a world of egregious sins involving money and amateur athletes and the criminals that love them, this isn’t the worst story ever. It doesn’t even involve all that much money. $10,000 broken down into two payments to steer a potential #1 overall towards some… agent meetings, I think? Rodney Blackstock isn’t an agent himself so I’m not really clear what would be the return on investment for him. I guess he’s positioning himself as the new World Wide Wes, since he lists his profession as Basketball Mentor. But here we are 30 years into the WWW story and nobody actually knows what Wes was doing for money for most of that time. And here’s a knockoff version. We can all blame Fetch and call it a day, I think.
The obvious takeaway from this and every other story involving amateur basketball in the U.S. over the last 18 or so years is that AAU basketball is a tawdry cesspool of adult jerks looking to make money for simply knowing talented kids. Really, that’s right there between the lines of Eric Prisbell’s story. Who is peddling the story in the first place? Darius Cobb. Who might have verifiably received $10,000 for McLemore’s basketball skills? Darius Cobb. Who’s the &$#%#&@! trying to start Ben McLemore’s pro career off with a bunch of inane and detrimental chatter? Darius Cobb. Way to go, coach! It’s nice that kids in St. Louis have a protective and honorable figure like you in their lives. I know that I, for one, would deeply appreciate it if my kid were being shaped substantially by a guy who sees that no &$#%#&@! is hitting the fan and goes to fill a wheelbarrow up with manure with the express purpose of hurling that wheelbarrow-full of manure through the proverbial fan.
Did Ben McLemore get money and things for being good at basketball? Kids at my high school who never even ended up playing D1 sports were getting free &$#%#&@! 20 years ago, so I’m willing to accept that one of the top 5 NBA prospects in the world probably got some extras for his time and talent. I’m not sure how much anybody can really care about this particular story, though. It doesn’t paint a very specific picture. It’s more like an impressionistic piece of journalism. Maybe now the dogs are aware of the smell emanating from Kansas and they’ll start poking around and the NCAA will come in and swing their mighty hammer down because this is a petty enough offense that there might be some damage from the Emmert Gang. More likely this will just help to build a nice little base of unsubstantiated and not particularly substantial rumors that Ben McLemore and Bill Self can dodge for a few years, a la Derrick Rose and John Calipari. Seriously, there’s not even a particular agent that was targeting the player in this case. A basketball mentor was helping the kid have a field of potential agents get vetted by assumably trusted advisors. The horror! The horror!!! I boo this story and Darius Cobb from the deepest place of I DON’T CARE possible. It’s in the same neighborhood as the reservoir of hate and defensiveness I felt when I read through Yahoo!’s allegations against The U. (No! Kids played pool and drank alcohol at a rich &$#%#&@!’s house!?!? Nooooo!!!! How did we get here as a society???) Ack! How did I get here? Let’s all tar and feather Darius Cobb and call it a day, okay?
Ben McLemore was considered a contender for the #1 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft starting in about November of last year. It was pretty much accepted that he wasn’t going to suit up for a second season in Lawrence. It’s probably pretty important for his professional life that he gets an agent that will make the most out of his blur of opportunities over the next few months. He should have people vetting agents for him. And, honestly, it should all be on the agents dime. Those guys will wring every cent they can out of him for the rest of his life. Go ahead and be pampered now before you sign a contract and you owe back for every nice thing they do for you, Ben. And I’m, of course, saying this in the past, probably in December. This story is so unimportant it makes me angry. Screw you, USA Today, for trying to scare us with showing how the sausage is made and only coming back with, “There’s garlic in there! Did you know there was garlic in there?”
I posted a thread about this yesterday.
There is nothing KU or Ben could have done to stop this so it really shouldn't affect his eligibility. However, you never know with the NCAA.