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Keatts’ name pops up in basketball bribery trial

NC State’s Keatts: ‘Kevin Keatts is a winner’

VIDEO: NC State Wolfpack new head basketball coach Kevin Keatts talks about his history of coaching winning programs during an introductory press conference at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, NC, Sunday, March 19, 2017.
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VIDEO: NC State Wolfpack new head basketball coach Kevin Keatts talks about his history of coaching winning programs during an introductory press conference at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, NC, Sunday, March 19, 2017.

Arizona coach Sean Miller was the most prominent name featured in the second college basketball fraud trial in New York on Wednesday but the name of N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts also came up.

Keatts’ name was on a list of head coaches and assistants with a possible connection to Christian Dawkins, a would-be agent who was sentenced to a six-month prison sentence in March for felony charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

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N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts walks off the court after Virginia’s 76-56 victory over N.C. State in the quarterfinals of the 2019 ACC Tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, March 14, 2019. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Dawkins’ relationship with Marty Blazer, a former financial planner who is a government witness, came under scrutiny on Wednesday during the trial of Dawkins and former Adidas consultant Merl Code for bribing coaches in the hopes of landing star players as clients, once they were in the NBA.

Much of the direct examination of Blazer, focused on Miller and the recruitment of former Arizona star Deandre Ayton. Ayton played one season for the Wildcats and was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft.

During the direct examination of Blazer, screenshots of text messages were displayed and showed a list of coaches and assistant coaches who Dawkins labeled as “my main guys,” according to Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic.

On the list of names were: Keatts, Miller, former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, former Louisville assistant Kenny Johnson, former Louisville assistant Jordan Fair, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, Michigan State assistants Dwayne Stephens and Dane Fife, LSU coach Will Wade, LSU assistant Greg Heiar, former UNLV coach Marvin Menzies, Creighton assistant Preston Murphy, Illinois assistant Jamal Walker, Miami assistant Chris Caputo, Cleveland State coach Dennis Felton, UNC-Asheville coach Mike Morrell, Michigan assistant Saddi Washington and former USC assistant Tony Bland.

The names were shown as a list but there weren’t any further details about whether Dawkins had specifically been in contact with Keatts or several of the other coaches on the list.

Fred Demarest, a spokesman for N.C. State’s athletic department, said the school had “nothing to add” about Keatts’ name being on the list.

This is the first time Keatts’ name has been tangentially connected to the pay-for-play scandal that has ensnared Adidas executives, agents, wannabe agents and four Division I assistant coaches in a series of federal trials in New York.

NC State basketball coach Kevin Keatts talks with reporters after learning of the verdict in a college basketball corruption trial. Keatts spoke to reporters at ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte, NC Wednesday, Oct. 24. 2018.

Former N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried and former N.C. State assistant Orlando Early have been investigated, and Early was connected by testimony in October during the trial for former Adidas executive Jim Gatto, to a $40,000 payment of former N.C. State star Dennis Smith Jr. in 2015.

Gatto received a nine-month prison sentence in March and has since agreed to pay $342,438 to N.C. State and Kansas in legal fees and restitution.

Bland, Richardson and Evans have already pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy charges. A fourth former assistant coach, Auburn’s Chuck Person, has pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy. Richardson, the former Arizona assistant, has admitted he accepted $20,000 in bribes.

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