At trial looking into college basketball corruption, witness alleges $60K payment by Maryland booster to 5-star recruit's guardian

A former Adidas consultant who was called as a government witness at a New York trial looking into college basketball corruption testified in court Thursday that a Maryland booster paid the guardian of former five-star prospect Silvio De Sousa $60,000 and requested it was paid back for De Sousa to get out of his possible commitment to the Terps and attend Kansas, according to Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel.

The consultant turned government witness, T.J. Gassnola, has been linked to several former high-profile recruits, including former Arizona star DeAndre Ayton, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft. Fenny Falmagne, who has been the guardian for both De Sousa, currently a sophomore at Kansas, and current Maryland player Bruno Fernando, has denied he has received any payments.

In a phone call played in court, according to the New York Times, Gassnola told former Adidas employee Jim Gatto that “[The booster] wants his money back now because the kid didn't go to Maryland.” Gassnola said he offered $20,000 to De Sousa's guardian to help, but never paid it.

De Sousa, who grew up with Fernando in Angola and followed him to the IMG Academy in Florida two years ago, was thought by recruiting analysts to be a lock for Maryland’s 2017 recruiting class until he made a recruiting trip to Kansas in the fall of 2016. Immediately after he returned to Florida, De Sousa committed to the Jayhawks.

Kansas has been a central figure in the allegations of illegal payments to former and current college stars. According to documents obtained by Yahoo Sports last year, Kansas allegedly paid the mother of Josh Jackson, as well as the mother of Billy Preston. Kansas has denied any illegality involving coach Bill Self and his staff.

Maryland’s alleged involvement with De Sousa was discovered when the attorney for Gatto claimed earlier this month that Under Armour paid $20,000 for De Sousa to play for the Terps. Earlier this year, Maryland acknowledged receiving two subpoenas trying to get information about the recruitment of both De Sousa and former Terp Diamond Stone, who played one season in 2015-16 before turning pro.

In a statement in early July, Maryland said that “none of the responsive records shows evidence of any violations of applicable laws or NCAA bylaws by University coaches, staff or players. The University has cooperated and will continue to cooperate fully with the ongoing federal investigation.”

Before his team left on a summer tour to Italy in early August, Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon said, “I feel the same way the first day [the allegations were made] — I feel great about our involvement.”

Turgeon told reporters earlier Thursday at Big Ten media days in Chicago that he doesn't think the trial will have a major impact on the sport. He said college basketball is “in great shape.”

“I think we have great depth throughout college basketball,” he said. “It continues to grow. I think we have great coaching in our game. I think we have some really great teams this year, three, four, five teams that are terrific teams.”

In a statement Thursday regarding the allegations of a payment by a booster, a Maryland spokesperson said, “After an internal review, we found no involvement as a program regarding these allegations.”

Under Armour declined comment when the allegations were presented earlier this month, citing the ongoing FBI investigation.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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