Trial audio: Then-Arizona assistant says Sean Miller paid Deandre Ayton
Wiretap audio collected by the FBI and played in the federal college basketball corruption trial Wednesday includes former Arizona Wildcats assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson claiming head coach Sean Miller paid players, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Scattered among seven wiretap audio recordings played, there were multiple instances where Richardson suggested that Miller had paid or promised to pay high school recruits. One mention recorded in June 2017 involves Richardson claiming Miller agreed to pay or had paid $10,000 a month to eventual No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Deandre Ayton, who is now a member of the Phoenix Suns.
From Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel and Pete Thamel:
On one call between (runner Christian) Dawkins and Richardson, the two discussed Ayton and the possibility of Dawkins’ management company eventually signing Ayton. That’s when Miller came up.
“You know what he bought per month,” Richardson said on the call concerning what Richardson believed was Miller’s agreement with Ayton.
“What he do?” Dawkins asked.
“I told you, 10,” Richardson said.
Later, Dawkins said, “Hey, he’s putting up some real money for them [explicit].”
Also on the calls, the two discussed that Richardson did not need to use any of the $20,000 that Dawkins’ company was going to give him to pay Wildcat player Rawle Alkins because Miller was allegedly handling him.
“Sean’s taking care of Rawle and them,” Dawkins said.
The wiretap evidence was played before Dawkins, a defendant, decided to take the stand to testify.
Video evidence presented last week in the trial included an FBI recording of Dawkins claiming that he and Miller discussed potential payments to Ayton, who was then a recruit. Witness Marty Blazer also testified that Dawkins told him Miller admitted to paying players.
Richardson was promptly dismissed from the team in September 2017 when he was arrested by the FBI before the string of trials began, but links to the scandal soon found Miller.
In early 2018, ESPN first reported that wiretaps included Miller discussing payments with Dawkins. 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.
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. On March 1, 2018, following that report, Miller missed a road game as the school looked into the allegations. The head coach 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.”
A third-party attorney, Paul Kelly, was hired by the University of Arizona upon the basketball program’s link to the corruption investigation. He has attended the trials in New York, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
Regardless of Miller breaking any NCAA recruiting rules, he could be at risk of punishment by the NCAA due to a bylaw that says head coaches are responsible for the assistants’ actions.