WASHINGTON – Who is the middleman on the receiving end of LSU basketball coach Will Wade's "strong-ass offer"?
His name is Shannon Forman, a fixture in Baton Rouge basketball circles and someone who LSU freshman guard Javonte Smart referred to as "my mentor." Documents viewed by Yahoo Sports show a link between Forman and Christian Dawkins, the aspiring agent and recently convicted felon whom Wade was talking to on the call that has ultimately led to his suspension.
In a wiretapped 2017 phone call with Dawkins first reported by Yahoo Sports earlier this month, Wade makes mention of "Shannon" as the intermediary for his "strong-ass offer" for a recruit. Multiple sources have confirmed to Yahoo Sports that the reference is to Forman, who has been labeled both a trainer and coach of current LSU standout Smart — the recruit in question on the wiretap.
Forman declined comment when reached by Yahoo Sports on Thursday, saying "right now is not a good time." Smart spoke generally about his close relationship with Forman, whom he's known "most of my life." But he declined comment about Wade's reference to Forman on the FBI wiretap. "I don't know about that," Smart said in the LSU locker room. "I don't have any comment about that."
An LSU official declined comment when reached by Yahoo Sports on Thursday morning.
Documents viewed by Yahoo Sports illuminate Forman's relationship with Dawkins. An email time-stamped at 11:02 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, was sent by Dawkins to ASM Sports president Andy Miller and fellow ASM employees Andrew Vye, Gabriel Ovejas and Jessica Ruffin. In the email, Dawkins provided updates on eight players, including Smart.
"I met with ... Shannon Forman, who has Javonte smart (sic). [Forman] had two kids in the elite 24 game that have a shot down the line. And he also wants to give us Brandon Sampson."
Smart played in the Under Armour Elite 24 game earlier on the day Dawkins sent the email. So did Smart's future LSU teammate, Naz Reid. Sampson is another Baton Rouge product who, at the time, was heading into his sophomore season at LSU. He played three seasons before turning pro in 2018 and going undrafted. (Interim LSU coach Tony Benford confirmed he'd met Forman and that he "has a relationship with Javonte.")
On Dawkins' ASM expense report detailing expenditures from July 25 to Aug. 29, 2016, he listed a $230.16 expense for a meeting at a Doubletree Hotel with Norton Hurd, Jeff Jones and Shannon Forman. Hurd is a coach with Memphis-based AAU program Team Thad. Jones is the coach at Madison Preparatory Academy in Baton Rouge, and he said in a phone interview on Thursday that he recalled the meeting. He added that he knew Dawkins because he represented one of his former players, ex-LSU star Jarell Martin.
On the wiretap, Wade says he went to Forman "with a [expletive] strong-ass offer about a month ago. [Expletive] strong."
"The problem was, I know why he didn't take it now, it was [expletive] tilted toward the family a little bit," Wade continued. "It was tilted toward taking care of the mom, taking care of the kid. Like it was tilted towards that. Now I know for a fact he didn't explain everything to the mom. I know now, he didn't get enough of the piece of the pie in the deal."
Dawkins is known to be on FBI wiretaps during the late spring and summer of 2017. ESPN, citing court records, previously reported that Dawkins had "at least three calls with a cellphone number belonging to Wade, each of which occurred between June 19, 2017, and June 30, 2017." Smart announced his commitment to LSU via Twitter on June 30, 2017.
A Baton Rouge product himself, Forman's Twitter account is rife with references to Smart's performance this season at LSU. A 247Sports story from April 2017 mentions Forman as Smart's trainer, and notes that Forman played collegiately at Memphis for John Calipari. The story predicts that Smart "may be Kentucky's safest bet in the 2018 class."
Smart quantified the relationship with Forman, who coached him in middle school, this way: "He's my mentor. He's real close to me, and he looks out for me. He's been there most of my life. When I really got into basketball, he was there for me. When I really started to focus on basketball, he was always there for me."
In addition to the Forman-Calipari connection, Smart had begun playing AAU ball with Houston Hoops, a reliable pipeline to Kentucky in recent years (De'Aaron Fox, Jarred Vanderbilt, 2019 commit Tyrese Maxey). Yet two months later, Smart had committed to LSU.
Wade remains suspended by LSU after refusing to cooperate with school and NCAA investigations into the wiretap comments. The Tigers play Friday in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 against No. 2 Michigan State.
Dawkins, a basketball middleman with deep connections to grassroots hoops, and former Adidas consultant Merl Code are facing federal bribery charges in the federal trial scheduled for April 22. Three co-defendants who worked as assistant college coaches — Tony Bland of USC, Emanuel "Book" Richardson of Arizona and Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State — have all reached plea agreements in the case.
Dawkins, Code and Adidas executive James Gatto were found guilty during the scandal's first trial in October at the Moynihan Federal Courthouse in New York. Earlier this month, Gatto was sentenced to nine months in prison, and Dawkins and Code each received six-month sentences.
After being suspended for LSU's final regular-season game, Smart has returned to play for the Tigers in the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
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