The Duke basketball program announced on Friday that they “found no evidence” of any NCAA violation involving Zion Williamson during its own apparent five-month investigation into the program, according to the Charlotte News and Observer’s Steve Wiseman.
The investigation came following controversial lawyer Michael Avenatti made comments back in April on his Twitter profile accusing Nike of paying Williamson’s mother to ensure he attended a Nike-sponsored school.
“Can you please ask Zion Williamson’s mother — Sharonda Sampson — whether she was paid by @nike for bogus “consulting services” in 2016/17 as part of a Nike bribe to get Zion to go to Duke?” he said.
Back in August, Avenatti then brought forth documents in federal court alleging Williamson and former Indiana guard Romeo Langford were paid by their respective schools while still in high school.
Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld told the Observer on Friday that Williamson’s eligibility at Duke was not affected.
“As soon as Duke was made aware of any allegation that might have affected Zion Williamson’s eligibility, we conducted a thorough and objective investigation which was directed by individuals outside the athletics department,” Schoenfeld said. “We found no evidence to support any allegation. Zion thrived as both a student and an athlete at Duke, and always conducted himself with integrity and purpose.”
In response to Duke’s announcement, Avenatti fired back by telling the Observer he never heard from anyone associated with the university and will not back off of his claims.
“I never heard from anyone associated with Duke in connection with my allegations or any investigation,” Avenatti said. “I was never asked a single question. I was never asked what information or documents that I was aware of. Who the hell conducted this investigation? Inspector Clouseau? The documents and the hard evidence do not lie. Zion Williamson was paid to attend Duke. Coach K has made and facilitated payments to players for years. And when the truth comes out — and eventually it will — Coach K and Duke’s reputation will be forever and rightfully tarnished.”
And if what I am saying is untrue, I challenge Coach K and Duke University to file a defamation lawsuit against me tomorrow and we can let the chips fall where they may.”
Back in August, Pat Forde, Pete Thamel, and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports released a bombshell report filled with the various exhibitions submitted to federal court by Avenatti, who was attempting to support his claims from earlier that week that Nike had engaged in corruption and illegal payments to high-level basketball recruits.
Outside of Williamson and Langford, along with former Arizona center Deandre Ayton, Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne was one of several other individuals named in these documents, sparking a sense of uneasiness throughout the Big Blue Nation.
According to the official exhibits in Avenatti’s case, Payne – listed by his initials and nickname of “KP” in the messages – had a conversation with Nike EYBL director Carlton DeBose, who told the Kentucky assistant which EYBL coaches he supplied money to in order to help families of players on the popular shoe circuit.
After the news, I wrote a post on the website breaking down the text messages and why Kentucky fans shouldn’t be worried moving forward.
If you need to get caught up, check out that article below: