Zion Williamson lawsuit: agent claiming to loan money has controversial past


Slavko Duric answered the phone and we left. In the past and in the dark alleys where the business of basketball takes place.

“We should write a book,” Duric said at one point during a long, winding conversation.

If we were to write a book, the title would be this: They never go away.

“They” refer to the scammers and opportunists who populate the basketball supply market. The business of circling around promising young talent and finding ways to make money has been solid for decades, and there are always new crooks coming out of the woods, but also a remarkably hardy group of usual suspects. .

The money is there. Deterrent rules are widely flouted and when they are applied, it is often only a temporary setback. A con artist involved in a basketball scandal or controversy rarely seems to quit the game; it just goes underground for a while and reappears later.

Which brings us to Duric. Last week, The Canadian’s name has (re) surfaced in increasingly bizarre Zion Williamson lawsuit against Gina Ford. Ford attorneys produced an affidavit of a man who claimed to have loaned money to Duric as part of a plan to represent Williamson, who allegedly received $ 400,000 and signed a deal with Duric in October 2018, before that Zion does not become a mega-star at Duke. Williamson’s legal team wasted no time fighting back, claiming the deal included in the court file was a forgery and alleging that Duric attempted a similar ploy two years ago with the current LA star. NBA Luka Doncic.

Thus, my man Slavko very quickly made a vague name in the American sports consciousness. But not for the first time.

“I was involved in some things 20 years ago,” admitted Duric.

If you’ve been on the black market long enough, you might remember Duric from another controversy. He had his first (brief) star tour, sort of as a broker for a group of Nigerian basketball players who wanted to come to the United States.

Among them were Muhammad Lasege, Benjamin Eze, Olumide Oyedeji, and Uche Okafor, and their route out of Nigeria and into the United States in the late 1990s was torturous. This involved an involuntary stay in Russia, where the players felt pressured into signing professional contracts that would jeopardize (or end) their NCAA eligibility.

Lasege found a way out when he received an invitation to visit the University of Buffalo through a sister Canadian institution, the College of Halifax. He got a Canadian visa and flew to Toronto in late 1998, but instead of traveling to Buffalo he was met by Duric, who had worked with other athletes trying to find their way to the United States.

Lasege never made it to Buffalo. Instead, Duric stepped in as a de facto middleman in recruiting players. Duric told me he did his best to help the players land in good situations and never took any money to lead them anywhere, but he accepted the Final Four tickets. of NCAA Coaches. En masse.

“Several coaches provided me with a lot of Final Four tickets,” said Duric. “Like a parcel. There were over a dozen coaches who gave me less than a bunch and more than a few [tickets]. And you can imagine what I did with them.

Duric would not name the coaches or their schools. He also did not say whether Nigerians ended up in any of the schools that provided him with the bribes.

Lasege and Eze signed with Louisville; Okafor signed with Miami; and Oyedeji signed up to Rutgers but reportedly ran into visa issues that prevented him from traveling to the United States Eze and Okafor ended up at the College of Southern Idaho, a junior college – Eze turned pro after his stay there and Okafor enrolled in Missouri but never won NCAA eligibility. Lasege played 21 games for Louisville during the 2000-01 season, then his eligibility was terminated.

None have ever played in the NBA. Lasege, a gifted and hardworking student, graduated from Louisville and then received an MBA from the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania. His LinkedIn biography says he is assistant treasurer at Ecolab in Minneapolis.

Here’s the point: 20 years after that Nigerian drama, Slavko Duric is still looking for the next stir. But the boss of Maximum Management insists he was the one who was being pushed around in Zion’s situation.

Duric said that in 2018 he was contacted by someone he would not name, acting as an intermediary between Williamson’s family and their friend, James “Chubby” Wells, who would go on to be Zion’s agent until ‘to fail the NBA certification test. Duric said he was asked if he wanted to participate in Zion’s action once he turned pro, in exchange for a $ 100,000 payment to the family.

“I tried to do something that I would call off the lines,” said Duric. “I would have been involved very early on. I was on the front line thanks to a person who said he knew the family. Someone who said he was [Williamson’s stepdad] Lee Anderson spoke to me. Someone who said they were Chubby Wells spoke to me a dozen times.

Duric said he received a signed agreement from the Williamsons and a copy of Zion’s driver’s license. He said he sent the money to a family representative without ever meeting them face to face, a questionable claim for someone with his street savvy.

“I became addicted to the opportunity,” said Duric.

Then, he claims, everything dried up. Duric said all the phone numbers he had for those around Williamson were disconnected.

“I was the victim of a con artist from someone acting like he was part of the inner circle [with Williamson]”Said Duric.” I never spoke to Zion Williamson, and anyone who claimed to belong to Zion’s inner circle was an impostor.

“Honestly, I’m in the dark. I know I’m at $ 100,000.

Williamson’s attorney says crook job is all of Duric’s, claiming he was the one who forged the deal and included a fake photo of a driver’s license. (The license lists Williamson’s incorrect hometown and lists his height where his weight is believed to be, and vice versa.) It was also aimed directly at the Luka Doncic family’s allegations against Duric.

Take Slavko Duric’s greatest hits and you get a feel for what happens on the basketball outskirts, where players are trivialized early on and families can be manipulated from all angles. And the scammers just hang around, waiting for the next opportunity, because until the federal government kicks in at the end of 2017, what were the deterrents?

TJ Gassnola, an extraordinary pocket man in Kansas and the State of North Carolina, saw his AAU team decertified by the NCAA in 2012 for helping Agent Andy Miller pay players. Did that rule out Gassnola (or Miller, for that matter)? Not at all.

AAU coach Pat Barrett, featured in the 1990 flagship book Raw recruits for trying to cash in on a relationship with a rookie, has been called “the greatest whore I’ve ever met” by none other than Jerry Tarkanian. Two decades later, he was indicted by Yahoo Sports for receiving $ 250,000 from a sports agency in exchange for access to Kevin Love while at UCLA. And just last year, concerns were expressed about Barrett’s potential interference with young college players.

Houston businessman Martin Fox was a basketball gadfly who knew everyone in the sport and got into promoting events, helping to organize college basketball games from high level. He was also affiliated with Houston Hoops, a powerful AAU team. Then Fox was cited in court by Gassnola as the guy who provided him with $ 40,000 to pay the family of North Carolina State rookie Dennis Smith Jr. And after that Fox was arrested as as a key element of the “Operation Varsity Blues” attack, accused of being the man who helped facilitate fraudulent standardized testing.

Sometimes the peripheral characters become the establishment. William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley, a Hall of Fame hustler who needs no introduction, is a newly formed executive with the New York Knicks. That says a lot about endurance and the usefulness of knowing how the system works and who makes it work.

Even the Southern District of New York’s attempt to blow up college basketball is unlikely to send any crooks running for permanent cover. Criminal charges can be a deterrent, but not for everyone.

The guy at the heart of this undercover operation, Christian Dawkins, is a convicted felon who is appealing his conviction and jail time. If you think he’s done with the hoops, think again.

Multiple sources told Sports Illustrated this summer that Dawkins was planning a comeback – he would provide the contacts and street sense to a basketball and music agency he’s building behind the scenes. A close associate of Dawkins acknowledged the plan and said he was working hard to convince the young manager to stay in the music route.

“He has to leave basketball behind,” the partner said.

But here’s the thing: scammers never leave it behind, and they never walk away.

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