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De'Anthony Melton still sidelined by USC in connection with college basketball bribery case

De'Anthony Melton still sidelined by USC in connection with college basketball bribery case
USC guard De'Anthony Melton takes a shot against SMU forward Semi Ojeleye during a game last season. (Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)

De’Anthony Melton won’t play in USC’s game at Vanderbilt on Sunday, according to his attorney, after being held out of the season’s first two games while the school investigates his eligibility in connection with the ongoing college basketball bribery and corruption case.

"USC is doing whatever they are doing in the face of convincing evidence De'Anthony has done nothing wrong," the attorney, Vicki I. Podberesky, told The Times. "I don't know what they're waiting for. It's disappointing, to say the least."

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A USC spokesman referred to a statement the school issued earlier this month, saying Melton was being held out as a precaution.

Podberesky said federal prosecutors from New York interviewed Melton for about 40 minutes last month in Tucson, Ariz. In advance of the meeting, the attorney said the prosecutors' told her they had no reason to believe Melton knew anything about the matter.

"He had no information to give them," Podberesky said.

Prosecutors have alleged that USC associate head coach Tony Bland facilitated a $5,000 payment to a “family member and/or close family friend” of a Trojans sophomore identified as Player-9. In exchange, the family member/friend would steer the player to use would-be sports agent Christian Dawkins and financial advisor Munish Sood when the player joined the NBA. Podberesky confirmed that Melton is Player-9.

The purported payment would violate NCAA rules, a separate matter from the federal investigation. USC could be penalized by the organization for using an ineligible player in a game.

The criminal complaint also accused a relative of a USC recruit, referred to as Player-8, of accepting $4,000 under similar circumstances.

Bland, on administrative leave since September, faces four charges. He pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

Podberesky said Melton never discussed agents or financial advisors with Bland, and that her client couldn't identify Dawkins and Sood in photographs prosecutors showed him during the Tucson interview.

According to the attorney, USC searched Melton's phone records and found no evidence of wrongdoing and that Melton had given the school permission to copy data from his phone in the coming week.

USC has interviewed Melton, his mother Monique Young and recently the person who allegedly accepted the $5,000 payment to influence Melton. Podberesky described him as a close family friend who has played an important role in Melton's life.

An NCAA representative was on hand for the interviews with Melton and the family friend. Podberesky said prosecutors had not interviewed the friend.

"I think they are convinced De'Anthony doesn't know anything," Podberesky said of the school. "They're trying to figure out if they're certain [the family friend] didn't take any money. How certain do they have to be? That's where the problem is coming in. ... I don't know how much assurance they need."

Melton hasn’t spoken publicly about the situation. He was among 20 players on the preseason watch list for the Jerry West Award for the nation’s top shooting guard.

Times staff writer Zach Helfand contributed to this report.

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NEXT UP

USC vs. Vanderbilt

When: Sunday, 5 p.m.

Where: Memorial Gymnasium, Nashville, Tenn.

On the air: TV: SEC Network; Radio 710.

Update: No. 10 USC (2-0) got a scare earlier this week from North Dakota State, which led by as many as 10 points before USC took control for a 75-65 win. The Trojans' first two games have been a showcase for USC's juniors, Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright, who each turned down a chance at the NBA draft to return. In the first game, Metu scored 18 points and had 10 rebounds in just 23 minutes. Against North Dakota State, Boatwright scored a career-high 28 points. Vanderbilt (2-1) won its first game against Austin Peay but lost 69-60 to Belmont and then escaped with a 69-66 win over North Carolina Asheville. Forward Jeff Roberson, a senior, leads the team with 14.3 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, and another senior, guard Riley LaChance, averages 13.3 points.

Twitter: @nathanfenno

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