Blog Entry

Investigation sheds light on Indiana AAU team

Posted on: May 26, 2011 3:00 pm
Edited on: May 26, 2011 3:04 pm
Posted by Matt Norlander

Before I get to the beef of this post, I want to share a feeling with you.

As I grow older in life and in this profession, I appreciate and love investigative journalism more and more. The reasons for this are simple: good investigative reporting is incredibly hard to do, so when people do it right and do it well, I want to hunt them down and bow to them for their public service and diligence. Without the gumption and dedication of these men and women, corruption, immorality and deceit would be much more prevalent in our worlds, from sports to politics to business to schools and beyond.

Think about it: When you're an investigating a story that's got a taboo to it, no matter the subject, people are constantly dodging you, quite possibly lying to you. Cell phones suddenly don't work. E-mails get sent into the ether, sometimes never to get a reply. Getting folks on the record -- the ones who don't have an axe to grind -- is no easy task. Quite often, an investigative reporter parachutes themselves into a situation where they have little or no contacts. Their reputation precedes them, so most aren't exactly eager to have a Woodward clone show up at their door. Gathering information and culling it can take months before dividends start to pay off.

It is, very much, a slow boil. saw its water turn to bubbles recently, as Mike Fish compiled a pretty significant series of stories, all of which were released this afternoon, spearheaded by its spotlight piece, "Basketball Ties That Bind." Fish sheds a lot of light on Indiana Elite, the AAU team that's recently been spoon feeding Indiana University with a slew of highly ranked recruits. It's because of this, most likely, that Hoosiers coach Tom Crean (right) still has a job. Crean has had to clean up Kelvin Sampson's mess, but he's still not doing a lot of winning; the fans are becoming increasingly itchy.

Fish's story details Indiana Elite and its coach, Mark Adams, who runs something known as A-HOPE, a program that mainly recruits African-born players to the United States with the intention of giving them a better life -- through basketball. A-HOPE is a registered non-profit organization with the IRS, something Adams claims he's put hundreds of thousands of dollars into. Fish's story, however, does a fantastic job of showing just how much time and effort is given to getting these players into high-level programs, most notably Indiana, and how there seem to be myriad perceptions of Adams, A-HOPE and Indiana Elite.  

There's been an increasing amount of suspicion among the college basketball community that Adams has been intentionally funneling players to colleges of his choice; Indiana is only the most recent target. The skeptics recently took on more gasoline for their fires when Adams' son, Drew, was hired in April of 2010 as a video coordinator with the Hoosiers.

Let it be clear: the story does not try to untangle Indiana's recruiting tactics or indict Crean in any way. This is about the practices of Adams and how he runs his teams. There are many coaches in the business who don't favor Adams because they've felt they've lost out on countless recruits due to Adams' influence.

His connections and motives, he says, are clear and pure. But others in the high school and collegiate basketball communities keep asking questions: What about Adams' ties to Indiana University basketball and about how his son got a job under coach Tom Crean with no prior college coaching experience? What about whether Adams stops communicating with African basketball players if they don't follow his advice when selecting a college? What about Indiana Elite, which has evolved into a pipeline for top players to IU, punctuated by future verbal commitments through 2014? What is going on with his nonprofit's donations and expenditures? And what about gifts bestowed upon Colombian-born forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea, a top IU commitment for the Class of 2012?

Adams will have none of it, saying is asking the questions only at the suggestion of rival coaches and that it is "manufacturing" a story. He declined multiple interview requests before agreeing to answer a set of questions in email, but he ultimately told not to contact him again.

As you can see, Adams doesn't come off as pure and completely moral. In one story by Fish, a player recruited to America by Adams, David Nyarsuk, no longer has contact and fears he'll be deported. As of now, there is no investigation being done by the NCAA into Indiana or Crean, but there is with Mosquera-Perea. The 2012 recruit's eligibility remains in question due to issues dating back to his time as a Baylor recruit, as referenced in the drop quote above.

Indiana seems OK -- for now. Crean is quoted in the story about how intense the microscope he's under now, and he has a point: Indiana would be one of the toughest places to cheat in recruiting, considering the smoldering crater Sampson left the program in after his text-messaging infractions killed off scholarships and sent IU basketball to the bottom of the Big Ten. If Adams and Crean (and anyone on Crean's staff) aren't working in concert to get recruits from Indiana Elite to the Hoosiers, then the Hoosiers should be in the clear.

Adams will remain to have his enemies and skeptics, even if he is bringing over impoverished, raw basketball players and trying to give them better lives.

There will never be enough time or manpower to fully investigate all the goings ons with this country's AAU scene. Piece by piece, we get a clearer picture, though. And it remains as unsettling, confusing, suspicious and unseemly as ever -- even without true proof. Fish's reporting, above all else, undresses Adams and force us to at least question his motives.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB

Since: May 27, 2011
Posted on: May 27, 2011 1:07 pm

Matt shed's light on journalistic ignorance.

Wow Matt, you really are putting yourself out there by commending this ESPN "investigative reporting".  Did Gary Parish see the holes in the article and let it slip down a couple notches to your level of journalistic expertise?  I would think you guys would stear clear of re-plublicizing a story from a rivel network but I guess you can't find your own story to write about.  It's fine to commend journalistic reporting when it uncovers real wrongdoing with real facts.  It's bad enough that Mr. Fish sensationalized it to seem like it implicates IU in some way with pictures of Crean and verbage that says IU has not been implicated in any way but still puts IU in a bad light.  The fact that you have Crean's picture up on your little post makes you just as petty in your attempts to get people's attention and web traffic.  How about you put up a picture of a poor African child with ragged clothing, malnurished, and complete look of hopelessness on their face because that is basically Fish's goal...  to make sure these kids who have been given a chance are shipped back to their homelands because we can't allow them to have a third generation Ipod hand me down or be able to go back to visit their families without hitchhiking.  All he uncovered was what everyone who knows anything about college basketball already knows, that AAU coaches influence players to certain schools based on relationships with the schools or head coaches.  It happens everywhere! (See the 2010 Memphis recruiting class)  To insinuate Adams has steared recruits to IU is pretty weak and bordering on absurd.  Indiana Elite AAU program has been going on for 30 years and has sent players all over the country.  So IU gets 5 recruits from the same AAU program in a two years period, check the facts on how many before that.  Crean has busted his ass to try to bring the IU program from a pit created by former AD's and coaches. Because Crean did what every Indiana fan wanted hime to do, which was focus on Indiana based recruits, he gets a backhanded article from a hack journalist about his affiliation with the AAU program that has typically had the best Indiana prep players and just also happens to be coached by a guy that helps foreign kids get a chance to play basketball at a high level.  Forget that Crean already has 5 other verbal commits from other Indiana based AAU programs!  His comment about working hard should not be taken for granted.  Crean is under a huge microscope and doesn't have the luxury of a network of runners and behind the scenes dealings like probably every other coach at a elite level program.  If he can play within the rules and build relationships with people who can help him keep up with the Jone's (UK, Duke, UNC, Kansas, UConn) than I say more power to him.  The guy has needed all the help he can get.  Have you seen Indiana play over the last 3 years?? 
Fish should be working a small town paper and since you decided to back him, EVEN THOUGH YOU WORK FOR CBS, so should you Matt.  It's complete drivel!  Do you really want to perpetuate the Fox News journalistic approach of creating headlines when the world doesn't provide the level of drama you covet? 

Since: Mar 22, 2010
Posted on: May 27, 2011 11:01 am

Investigation sheds light on Indiana AAU team

@IlliniRocket: Adams has a degree in Sports Management, he was a college basketball player, he was a student assistant coach; and he was hired as Coordinator of basketball systems (cool name for  "Video Coordinator" ) .  The guy was/is qualified for the position.  The rules were changed after he was hired to keep unqualified people with ties to recruits from being hired, but I don't even think that rule have been applicable in this case.

Since: Oct 13, 2006
Posted on: May 27, 2011 10:39 am

Investigation sheds light on Indiana AAU team

It seems like whenever a shady hire is made, the filled position is "Video Coordinator". I think that position was created for the purpose of funneling money to people that shouldn't be receiving money. Could an average Joe, with requisite experience in video editing, get this position if he didn't have connections to recruits?

I don't doubt the need for game film to be cut and spliced for scouting reports and whatnot, but is that really a full time position? Seems like a one-day a week job that a graduate assistant could handle. I'm curious about how much this 'video coordinator' gets paid.

Since: Mar 22, 2010
Posted on: May 27, 2011 10:20 am

Investigation sheds light on Indiana AAU team

This is part of a story from

• There are several other damaging comments from the article, even if only to reputation. I’ve spoken with several people today who have vouched for Adams or Indiana Elite, including Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins, Western Michigan senior Muhammed Conteh (who is a native of West Africa and played for Adams) and former Louisville/Creighton player Chad Millard (who also played for Adams).

Both Hawkins and Conteh said they were misled about the nature of the article. Conteh said he was told by Fish that it was as story about African players succeeding in the United States.

Said Hawkins: “At the minimum we were misled and at the worst, flat-out lied to. I was flabbergasted when I saw the story. There’s a lot about these kids being preyed upon, but I can tell you I’ve never seen that at all with Mark. Kids are going to play for (travel) programs they can trust. That’s true for kids from Michigan, from Indiana. The article sensationalizes that these kids were taken advantage of because they are from Africa. That’s ridiculous.”

Conteh, a backup 6-7 center, said he was “pissed off” when he read the story on Thursday.

“I had a great experience and relationship with Adams,” he said. “Heck, I would have never got a chance to play here if it wasn’t for him. All of the African kids that I’ve talked to feel that way.”

Now Matt, go do your job and report some facts.  The copy and paste job and the man crush you have for Fish doesn't cut it.

Since: Apr 6, 2010
Posted on: May 27, 2011 9:26 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Oct 7, 2010
Posted on: May 27, 2011 9:21 am

Investigation sheds light on Indiana AAU team

Fish failed to include all details in his "investigative report".  From 2008-2011 Indiana has had 5 Indiana Elite players commit.  Purdue has had 4, Butler had 3, Michigan, Duke, Valpo, and Cincinnati all had two each.  Tyler Zeller, an Indiana Elite alum went to North Carolina.  Indiana has 4 commits in 2013 and 2014, none of which are with the Indiana Elite program.

And like a previous poster said, everyone in Indiana knows about A-Hope.  They know about Indiana Elite and mark Adams.  It is not a big secret.  Adams has met with the NCAA and Indiana University Compliance Office and both said he has not broken any rules.  Next time Fish does an investigative report, he should include all the details instead of trying to single-out certain people and universities.

Since: Mar 22, 2010
Posted on: May 26, 2011 9:14 pm

Investigation sheds light on Indiana AAU team

If you're really a big fan of investigative journalism, not sure why you site Fish's article.  All the information in his report has been circulated on the Indiana forums on Scout and Rivals long before this guy published this garbage.  Maybe if you guys actually did some research instead of regurgitating rumors from the net you just might get a factual account of the actual events.  Go reread, Fish is already making adjustments to his epic tail.  Seriously, if you're going to spend 5 months on a hit piece, at least try to get the simple facts correct.  BTW ask the Steeler fans about this "investigative journalist".

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