Nassir Little, a top-10, five-star small forward prospect from Orlando, verbally committed to North Carolina on Wednesday, and there's a good reason his pledge to the Tar Heels was expected.
Little's commitment comes eight days removed from the FBI's world-rattling announcement to college basketball that it charged 10 men in a widespread probe into nefarious recruiting tactics by assistant coaches, financial advisers, Adidas employees, a grassroots basketball coach and a referee-turned-clothier.
Little, whose former grassroots coach has been charged, has been connected to the case (but not charged, nor has anyone in his family) due to his recruitment. Specifically, there are accusations made by the FBI regarding potential foul play in others attempting to steer a player believed to be Little to Miami (Florida) or Arizona. Allegations on behalf of the Department of Justice state that money was attempting to be acquired, and funneled, in order to potentially send Little to "University-7," which has been revealed as the University of Miami, an Adidas-sponsored program.
The feds claim they have some of the men charged caught on wiretap discussing competition from "University-4" (Arizona, a Nike program) as potentially being willing to put down more money to snare the commitment.
Miami has acknowledged the FBI is investigating its program,On Tuesday, Arizona coach Sean Miller, in addition to that school's athletic director and university president, .
Little's travel basketball coach, Jonathan Brad Augustine, is one of the 10 men charged in the case. Augustine runs 1Family. It is sponsored by Adidas. Two Adidas employees, James Gatto and Merl Code, were also charged and are connected to the conversations allegedly regarding Little's recruitment. Per an FBI complaint, Gatto, Code, Augustine and former NBA agent Christian Dawkins schemed to move $150,000 in an effort to aid the recruitment "Player-12," who described as high profile and in the class of 2018. Augustine's only player recruited by Miami and Arizona was Little.
The conspiracy was in motion, like other instances in the sprawling case, to get Little to sign with Dawkins and, separately, Adidas upon turning pro.
Hours after the FBI story first broke, Little tweeted, then deleted, that he was re-opening his recruitment. Now he's headed to UNC, following a visit there in August. The Tar Heels won out after Little whittled his list to five schools -- Arizona, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, UNC -- on Aug. 10. The FBI has on record, via a wiretapped call on Aug. 9, Dawkins and Code discussing paying the unnamed player "at the request of at least one coach at University-7."
The FBI's complaint also declares Gatto and other conspirators planned to cloak potential payments through Augustine and the 1Family program. Adidas, like all shoe companies, funds its travel basketball programs with thousands and thousands of dollars annually.
The 1Family program released this statement on Sept. 29: "The Little family did not ask for, nor were offered money by any institution or individual. They were completely unaware of any of the alleged offenses that may have been mentioned or contained their son's name. There is not one single player in our program, nor family member of any player, that had any knowledge or discussion about payments being made in regards to making a college decision."
Little's father defended Arizona coach Sean Miller over the weekend.
Sean Miller did not offer Nassir any Money. Please stop promoting that false narrative...please!— Harold Little (@Teelittle0608) October 1, 2017
Sources told CBS Sports that once the details of the FBI's investigation became clear last Tuesday, Miami cut off contact with Little out of deference to the federal government's review.
Little is 6-foot-7 and approximately 205 pounds. From a basketball perspective, his commitment to the Tar Heels is a big one because he will help replace outgoing senior Theo Pinson, plus a potential departure from two-year transfer Cam Johnson. Although he's not nearly the prospect Harrison Barnes was at UNC seven years ago, his style of play is similar to Barnes. Little joins five-star combo guard Coby White and four-star small forward Rechon Black as 2018 commits to Roy Williams' program.