Former Houston Coach Makes Strong Accusations Against Another Big 12 School

Posted by dnspewak on August 2nd, 2012

We’ve got a bit of a whodunnit on our hands this week in the Big 12. In light of the recent Central Florida sanctions, a USA Today article about third-party influences in college basketball quoted former Houston coach Tom Penders of accusing a Big 12 school of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to an AAU coach in exchange for a recruit. Normally, we might skim over this kind of news because it is so commonplace in this day and age of Reggie Bush, O.J. Mayo, Worldwide Wes, point-shaving scandals and god knows what other sorts of shenanigans programs engage in these days. We’ve all seen Blue Chips. We know the world is a dark, dark place.

Tom Penders Made Some Waves on Wednesday

But this accusation by Penders is different, simply because it is so incredibly easy to pinpoint who the culprits may be in this situation. Penders “declined” to name the recruit in question, but read the following quote from USA Today. He basically does our job for us.

Others move in the shadows of the sport. In six seasons as head coach at Houston, Penders estimated, an AAU coach or his agent asked Penders for money in return for the commitment of a prospect at least 25 times. On one occasion, an AAU coach and his agent visited Penders’ office with two offers: Pay tens of thousands of dollars in return for a player’s commitment, or place an AAU coach on his staff to establish a pipeline. “I threw him out of my office,” Penders said. Penders said the player, whom the coach declined to identify, spent one season at a Big 12 school before being drafted in the second round of the NBA draft. Penders said the AAU coach collected “six figures” from the Big 12 school that chose to engage in the scheme.

So we’re looking for a one-and-done Big 12 player drafted in the second round between 2005 and 2010. As fellow college hoops scribe Rob Dauster points out, that leaves us with three possibilities:

  1. DeAndre Jordan, 2008 (Texas A&M)
  2. Bill Walker, 2008 (Kansas State)
  3. Tiny Gallon, 2010 (Oklahoma)

Immediately, we can cast doubt on Bill Walker. Technically, he actually spent two seasons at Kansas State. He was a year ahead of Michael Beasley, but he tore his ACL during the 2006-07 season under Bob Huggins and then played a full year under Frank Martin in 2007-08. Penders could have misspoken or, as our favorite “not guilty” Cy Young award pitcher likes to say, “misrememebered.” But Jordan and Gallon, both of whom played high school basketball in the city of Houston, are the more likely perpetrators here. Jordan starred at Christian Life Center and grew into one of the nation’s top recruits in the Class of 2007. Everybody was in the market for this old-school big man, a true seven-footer who surely would dominate on both ends of the floor the second he stepped on the court. Frankly, a six-figure salary to an AAU coach seems about right for his talent level (that’s sarcasm. Sort of). Same goes for Gallon, also a top-10 recruit out of high school. Gallon played his freshman and sophomore seasons at a school in a Houston suburb before transferring to the prestigious Oak Hill Academy. Gallon, of course, already made headlines during his time at OU when an accusation surfaced that a financial advisor had lent $3,000 to his mother. Gallon denied any wrongdoing and said that the advisor was only helping his family pay for the release of his Oak Hill records — so that he could attend Oklahoma — but phone records also tied an Oklahoma assistant coach to this financial advisor. In the midst of all this, Jeff Capel lost his job, the NCAA hit Oklahoma with probation, and Lon Kruger is still cleaning up the mess to this day. Still, the situation has little relevance to the Penders’ accusation, if only to show that the ethics of Gallon’s amateurism have been questioned before.

Even Jack McCoy couldn’t get an answer out of this case, though, and it’s unlikely anything will come from this story. The coaches who recruited these three players — Frank Martin (KSU), Jeff Capel (Oklahoma) and Billy Gillispie (Texas A&M) — have all moved on to new jobs, and it’s also possible Penders had an agenda for complaining about a Big 12 school beating him out for a recruit. If it’s true, however, it begs the question: was the money worth it? Were any of these three players actually worth more than $100,000? In Walker’s case — and, remember, it’s already highly unlikely he’s our suspect here — I’d say hell yes. Along with Beasley, he revitalized Kansas State’s program and helped create a perennial NCAA Tournament qualifier under Frank Martin. That one-two punch with Beasley and Martin won 21 games, reached the second round of the NCAAs and earned a landmark victory by knocking off Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum for the first time in 24 years. The sight of a purple mob engulfing the floor in Manhattan after that win will live forever in the lore of Kansas State basketball, and it’s partly thanks to Walker’s contributions. Plus, Walker made for outrageous television — like when he, um, exposed of waste on a towel during a game, or when he munched on popcorn on the bench. Heck, just for those two performances sitting on the bench, ESPN would probably chip in a six-figure salary of its own in return for a ratings boost.

It’s a different story for Jordan and Gallon. Sorry, fellas. If your schools paid an AAU coach six figures to land you, they made a major mistake. Given time, Jordan certainly could have developed into one of the Big 12’s better centers. Just look at him now — he’s playing solid minutes catching Chris Paul’s lobs in the pros. As a freshman at Texas A&M, however, he was a bit of a disaster. He played for a very good team under a first-year head coach in Mark Turgeon, but he lost his starting spot midway through conference play and never recovered. There were games when he reminded you of his off-the-charts potential, but for the most part, his lone season (7.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG) left a lot of us scratching our heads. To his credit, none of this ever stemmed from legal trouble, and he never appeared to be a bad guy. Luckily, he had a team of beasts like Joseph Jones and Bryan Davis alongside him in the frontcourt to earn an NCAA Tournament berth, but as an individual performer, he just needed a little more time to develop as a college player. Unlike Jordan, Gallon didn’t have the luxury of playing for a successful team in 2009-10. A young team flying high after an Elite Eight and the departure of Blake Griffin to the NBA, Gallon’s team lost nine straight to finish the year and tanked to a 13-18 record. Alongside star guard Willie Warren and fellow one-and-done Tommy Mason-Griffin — another top recruit who did not even get drafted in 2010 — Gallon’s individual stat line was not horrendous. He averaged double figures in scoring and led the team in rebounding, but the allegations of cash payments and eventual probation for Oklahoma made him more trouble than he was worth. Bottom line: We hope Oklahoma didn’t spend thousands on this guy — it wouldn’t have been a strong financial move by any means.

dnspewak (343 Posts)

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