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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
RALEIGH - The attorney for adidas executive Jim Gatto told a federal court in New York this week that her client paid the family of Dennis Smith Jr. $40,000 to secure his commitment to play basketball at N.C. State, Yahoo! Sports reported.
Defense attorney Casey Donnelly made the comment Tuesday during opening statements of Gatto's fraud trial, where the federal government has charged him in connection with payments to numerous college basketball players in violation of NCAA rules.
The statement in open court acknowledging the payment to Smith is the strongest evidence yet presented to the allegations that NCAA rules were violated during Smith's recruitment. The point guard from Fayetteville played one season with the Wolfpack before the Dallas Mavericks selected him in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft.
Smith has denied the allegations.
Last April, unsealed indictments showed the FBI alleged that the payment from Gatto to a player believed to be Smith was funneled through an as yet unnamed N.C. State assistant coach in October 2015.
Smith was not named in the indictment and is not charged with any crimes. Donnelly's comment Tuesday was the first time Smith's name has been explicitly mentioned.
If the payment is found to have occurred, the NCAA could charge N.C. State with violating its recruiting rules. That opens up the school's basketball program to sanctions.
In response to a request for comment, N.C. State athletics director Debbie Yow issued the following statement:
"We've worked tirelessly to establish a culture of compliance and accountability within NC State Athletics. When that culture is threatened we will always act appropriately. If any former employee was involved, they knew they were breaking the rules and chose to keep it hidden. We have no tolerance for those who would choose to damage the reputation of this great university. N.C. State will continue to operate with integrity, winning the right way and succeeding with character. We will continue to fully cooperate with the U.S. Attorney's Office and keep the NCAA updated throughout this process."
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