The Dagger

Tough decision awaits NCAA after allegations made by Ben McLemore’s AAU coach

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Ben McLemore (Getty Images)

When Ben McLemore's former AAU coach revealed to USA Today he accepted $10,000 cash and other gifts to steer the Kansas guard toward certain agents, he didn't just create a headache for one of his former players.

He also put the NCAA in a very difficult spot.

Unless evidence emerges proving either McLemore or Kansas coach Bill Self knew about the payments, it doesn't seem fair to punish the Jayhawks for something they neither were part of nor benefited from in the slightest. The money St. Louis-based AAU coach Darius Cobb acknowledged taking from a man trying to worm his way into position to serve as a runner for high-profile agents had nothing to do with McLemore choosing Kansas two years prior.

At the same time, if the NCAA were to follow its rulebook, it would seem to have little choice but to punish Kansas and perhaps even vacate the victories the Jayhawks achieved after Cobb and McLemore's cousin allegedly began accepting cash and gifts. NCAA rules state a player becomes ineligible if he, his relatives or friends accept transportation or other benefits from an agent or representative of an agent.

Acquiring information not already in the USA Today story will not be easy for the NCAA since most of the key figures in the case are under no obligation to cooperate with investigators. Kansas will have questions to answer because would-be runner Rodney Blackstock's name appears on McLemore's pass list for multiple games, but Blackstock's connections to agents don't seem concrete enough to fault school officials for not being aware of them.

That the NCAA isn't facing this quandary more frequently is somewhat surprising because deals like the one would-be runner Rodney Blackstock tried to foster with Cobb are likely pretty common.

Agents, runners and financial advisers often try to cultivate relationships with NBA draft prospects and their families long before the college season ends, a process that often includes payments to family members or former coaches in exchange for their influence. As CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish correctly pointed out Sunday, it's no coincidence many future lottery picks select an agent days after declaring for the draft if not sooner.

What makes the McLemore case unusual is the decision of his former AAU coach to come forward and acknowledge the money he has taken.

Cobb claims to USA Today that he's only trying to protect the family by making himself the bad guy, but that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The more plausible explanation is Cobb found himself less involved in the decision-making process than he hoped to be, so he decided to reveal the cash and gifts he had accepted out of spite.

Regardless, this saga will have minimal impact on McLemore's draft stock. The talented redshirt freshman will likely be the first guard selected in next month's draft after averaging nearly 16 points per game for a Kansas team that went 31-6 and won a share of its ninth straight Big 12 championship.

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