NBA Players Association to probe agency

Josh Peter
Yahoo! SportsMarch 13, 2009

The NBA Players Association said Friday it will initiate an investigation into the conduct of a New York-based sports agency that donated $300,000 to a California-based AAU program as part of a failed effort to represent Kevin Love, the former UCLA star who now plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The investigation will focus on whether Ceruzzi Sports and Entertainment violated regulations that govern player agents and resulted from a Yahoo! Sports report published earlier this week, players association spokesman Dan Wasserman said.

The agency, Ceruzzi Sports and Entertainment, also said it helped arrange a $50,000 loan for the uncle of Donte Greene, then playing at Syracuse University and now with the Sacramento Kings.

Syracuse has launched an internal investigation into the recruitment of Greene by the sports agency.

The penalties for a violation of players association regulations can result in a letter of reprimand, suspension or decertification.

Charles Grantham, the CEO of Ceruzzi Sports, served as executive director of the players association when it enacted the relevant rule. He did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Executives for Ceruzzi Sports told Yahoo! Sports they donated about $300,000 to the Southern California All-Stars, run by Pat Barrett, between September 2007 and April 2008. Founded in April 2007, Ceruzzi Sports donated the money to Barrett's program over several months. The agency ultimately hoped to represent Love, who declared for the NBA draft after his freshman season ended last year.

"Our intent was to get access to what you would consider potential NBA players," said Grantham, who added that Barrett promised he would provide access to more than a dozen of his top college-aged prospects including Love, Taj Gibson of USC and Chase Budinger of Arizona.

Tax returns indicate Barrett's program had plenty of money before Ceruzzi Sports began donating. The Southern California All-Stars took in more than $1.6 million between 2005 to 2007, according to the most recent tax records available. The federal government does not require tax-exempt entities to identify their source of income, and the records offer no information as to how Barrett raised the money.

During that three-year period, Barrett drew a salary of $64,000 a year for a program that features two traveling teams. Almost $700,000 was allocated for "coaching," and the second-highest cost was $200,000 for travel. The organization's primary purpose for tax exemption, as stated on the records, is "Youth Leadership Programs Via Basketball Exhibitions."

Barrett, who has run the program since its creation in 1994, has declined to comment.

In addition to donating to Barrett's program, Ceruzzi Sports also helped arrange a $50,000 loan for Derrick Marcano, Greene's uncle and a mortgage broker who lives in Baltimore. Grantham said the agency had identified Marcano as a person of influence who could help Ceruzzi Sports secure Greene as a client.