On Sunday, allegations emerged that Zion Williamson and/or his family accepted illegal (by NCAA standards) benefits while at Duke.
This is part of his legal dispute with Gina Ford who had briefly represented him before Williamson decided that was a mistake.
Her attorneys filed something called A Request For Admission and asked several questions, including this one: “[that Williamson admit that he] knew that Sharonda Sampson demanded and received gifts and economic benefits from persons acting on behalf of Duke University (directly and/or indirectly) to influence you to attend Duke University to play basketball,” according to Pat Forde at SI.com.
Does it mean that it’s true? We don’t know. We do know what we told you earlier - that we talked to people at Duke when he was here and they were keenly aware of people who were trying to get to him and that they were trying to do the right things by the NCAA. Duke was in its second great circus (1992 being the first) and you just have to hang on when you’re in it. It was an amazing ride, as was 1992, but it was bound to be exhausting.
What it underscores is what we’ve also said for a long time. There is an incredible amount of money flowing through the game, at every level, and there are many, many Christian Dawkinses out there carefully monitoring the AAU circuit.
It’s like trying to control the rains from a hurricane. Twice in recent years Eastern North Carolina has been completely flooded by hurricanes. Money is like that in basketball. You can try to do what the NCAA wants, but to actually control it? Might as well build a dam across the state.
The water would just come around it, as money does in “amateur” basketball.
The second part of it is this, and the NCAA appears to be coming around to this with proposed reforms: money is not inherently a bad thing and it’s crazy to think that people who haven’t had it (we’re not talking about Zion’s mother and stepfather. We honestly have no idea what their resources are) would refuse it because the NCAA says they should.
So what happens now? Well it depends on what happens in the lawsuit. The intent here is to intimidate Williamson by suggesting that they’ll put him on the stand and ask embarrassing questions. A lot of things are possible. They may have information Duke wouldn’t like. It’s also possible they’re engaged in some sort of a bluff to damage Williamson.
There’s no way to really know but we do believe Duke tried hard to be compliant.