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Arizona’s Sean Miller remains in spotlight during federal trial

Arizona NCAA college basketball coach Sean Miller gestures during a press conference in Tucson, Ariz., Thursday, March 1, 2018. (Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star via AP)

Video evidence presented Wednesday in the federal college basketball corruption trial included an FBI recording of defendant Christian Dawkins claiming that he and Arizona head coach Sean Miller discussed potential payments to then-recruit Deandre Ayton.

The involvement of the Wildcats head coach and former UA player, who is now on the Phoenix Suns, comes after U.S. District Court judge Edgardo Ramos ruled Miller’s need to testify as “irrelevant” last week.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told reporters he will ask Ramos on Thursday morning to reconsider that determination.

ESPN first reported that wiretaps included Miller discussing payments with Dawkins, and while prior federal trials involving the college basketball scandal confirmed the two spoke, there has yet to be audio evidence used in a trial of Miller speaking to Dawkins about such payments to Ayton.

ESPN’s initial report said FBI wiretaps included conversations between Dawkins and Miller about a $100,000 sum to ensure Ayton landed with the Wildcats. Paying recruits would break NCAA rules, but federal prosecutors have since suggested that is irrelevant to the case delving into illegal corruption.

The evidence presented Wednesday included a video of Dawkins and three others, including an undercover FBI agent, discussing Miller’s involvement with Ayton.

On March 1, 2018, after missing a road game following the ESPN report as the school looked into the allegations, Miller returned and read a prepared statement refuting ESPN’s story.

“I have never knowingly violated NCAA rules while serving as head coach of this great program. I have never paid a recruit or prospect or their family or representative to come to Arizona. I never have and I never will,” Miller said.

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