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Mark Wiedmer

When the first Associated Press college basketball poll of the season was announced on Monday, the Kansas Jayhawks were an understandable No. 1.

Unfortunately, KU also was at or near the top of news coming out of the college hoops corruption trial in New York last week, the one that seemed to link the Jayhawks to several potential NCAA violations regarding the illegal payment of players through athletic shoe giant Adidas.

Coincidence?

Maybe. Maybe not.

That Kansas should be a giant on the court this season is almost beyond debate. KU returns junior 7-footer Udoka Azubuike and senior wing Lagerald Vick from last year's Final Four squad. The Jayhawks have added considerable firepower in Memphis transfers and twins Dedric and K.J. Lawson. The addition of Charlie Moore from Cal also figures to boost their championship dreams.

But it's a sixth Jayhawk who could become a giant headache for KU before the NCAA tournament begins, though it would seem more likely — given the snail's pace at which the NCAA's investigative arm usually works — that the eligibility status of KU sophomore Silvio De Sousa might force the program to vacate whatever hardware it gathers this season at a later date, such as when Louisville's 2013 NCAA crown was later stripped over its recruiting misdeeds.

If you haven't paid attention to this case, defense attorney Mark Moore — one of the lawyers representing Merl Code, the former Clemson star charged with funneling shoe company money to players' family members — tried to submit wiretap recordings into the trial last week that he claims implicates Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend and head coach Bill Self for being aware of illegal payments not only to De Sousa's relations, but also what would be needed to sign Zion Williamson, who's now a freshman at Duke.

LSU coach Will Wade — whose head coaching career began at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2014 — also has been mentioned, but regarding Balsa Koprivica, a 7-foot center still in high school in Florida.

Though U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan refused to allow either the audio tapes or the transcripts of those tapes to be heard by the jury, they were read aloud to the judge and those in the courtroom, including members of the media.

Regarding a conversation between Code and Townsend on the recruitment of Williamson, Moore read the following exchange:

Code, according to Moore: "I know what (Williamson's stepfather) is asking for. This is the player's father. He's asking for opportunities from an occupational (perspective). He's asking for money in the pocket. And he's asking for housing for him and the family."

Replied Townsend, again according to Moore: "So I've got to just try to work and figure out a way. Because if that's what it takes to get him for 10 months, we're going to have to do it some way."

As for Wade in the case of Koprivica, a top-10 recruit, he reportedly was recorded discussing that player with Christian Dawkins, a runner for NBA agent Andy Miller.

Regarding Wade, Casey Donnelly, an attorney for Adidas executive Jim Gatto, read the following transcript:

Dawkins, according to Donnelly: "Would you want Balsa?"

Wade (again, according to Donnelly): "Oh, the big kid?"

Dawkins: "Yeah."

Wade: "OK. But there's other (expletive) involved in it. I have got to shut my door Here's my thing: I can get you what you need, but it's got to work."

As a postscript, on June 21, 2017, Koprivica tweeted: "Blessed to say I have received an offer from LSU."

There's a lot to this case beyond Kansas and LSU. Arizona is involved. And Southern Cal. And former Auburn assistant Chuck Person's trial on similar charges doesn't even begin until February.

And while KU's Self and Townsend have remained relatively tight-lipped about not only Williamson but the $20,000 they supposedly knew about that Adidas reportedly directed De Sousa's way, as well as $90,000 that was reportedly paid to the mother of former KU signee Billy Preston, Wade has been fairly adamant in denying Dawkins' claims.

At last week's SEC basketball media event, Wade said, "I will say I'm very proud of everything I've done as LSU's head coach. I, or we, have never, ever, done business of any kind with Christian Dawkins."

On Monday, during a media event at LSU, Wade added, "You can't worry about what people say about you."

As was written months ago in this column space, inquiring about what it might cost to obtain a player and paying for that player are two different things. Show us the money trail. Beyond that, if the FBI can prove money changed hands, shouldn't the Internal Revenue Service begin investigating if it's been reported or not?

For now, at least regarding the schools' involvement, these are nothing more than charges.

But as NCAA president Mark Emmert told USA Today last week, "We're tracking it very closely and obviously very, very interested in it. We know fully what's going on in the courtroom at all times."

This trial alone proves that the NCAA has known next to nothing about what's been going on in college basketball for the past 40 or so years.

But if Kansas knew even a fraction of what these defendants accuse it of knowing, the Jayhawks may not only be college hoops' preseason No. 1. They may also become the No. 1 target of both the feds and the NCAA's investigators.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com

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