The former AAU coach for Kansas star Ben McLemore claims he received thousands of dollars in cash and other benefits to steer McLemore to sports agents and financial advisors during the past college basketball season, according to a story Saturday on USAToday.com.
St. Louis-based AAU coach Darius Cobb told the newspaper that he received two payments of $5,000 each from Rodney Blackstock, founder and CEO of Hooplife Academy, a sports mentoring organization based in Greensboro, N.C.
In addition to receiving cash, Cobb also admitted he received three all-expense paid trips to Los Angeles, with two of those trips also reportedly including Richard Boyd, McLemore's cousin, to meet sports agents and financial advisers seeking to represent McLemore if and when he left for the NBA.
McLemore, 20, declared for the NBA draft on April 9 after just one season at Kansas as a redshirt freshman.
Cobb reportedly provided copies of travel itineraries and photos he had taken of himself and Boyd on the trips. Boyd has denied making the trips with Cobb.
"No, I did not (go to Los Angeles)," Boyd told USA TODAY Sports. "I don't know anything about that. The rumors, that's why I don't want to do interviews because people misinterpret stuff. ... There is too much confusion. Everyone is trying to control this and that."
However, Boyd did admit Blackstock has helped McLemore and his family wade through a number of approaches from agents and advisors.
"He is cool," Boyd says of Blackstock. "He has just given us some pointers. He has been in the business a while and has been overseas. But everything is Ben's and his mom's decisions."
USA Today claims it has confirmation of Blackstock's payments to Cobb through a source that requested anonymity. Attempts by the newspaper to contact Blackstock have been unsuccessful thus far.
However, Cobb said McLemore knew "little to none" about Blackstock's financial involvement in McLemore's life, and that McLemore did not know Cobb accepted $10,000 from Blackstock. Cobb said that the money Blackstock paid him was intended to have Cobb direct McLemore to Blackstock.
USA Today said it spent more than 10 hours interviewing Cobb at both his home and other locations in St. Louis.
USA Today said numerous attempts to reach McLemore for comment were unsuccessful.
"I don't want to hurt the family, I want to protect the (McLemore) family," Cobb says. "If there had to be a bad guy, if there had to be a fall guy, let it be me, as opposed to ruining a great kid who has busted his butt to get where he is. Let me be the crooked AAU coach. I was willing to take the brunt of it for the sake of this kid. I wanted to keep him pure."