UCLA coach Steve Alford and point guard Lonzo Ball were completely in sync throughout Ball’s one season with the Bruins, but they have vastly differing opinions on the issue of illicit payments to college basketball players.
Ball, nearing the end of his rookie season with the Lakers, said Friday in response to the widening scandal threatening college basketball that “everybody’s getting paid anyway, you might as well make it legal.”
Alford didn’t take even a full second to respond after he was relayed the quote from his former star player Sunday afternoon following UCLA’s 80-76 loss to Colorado at the Coors Events Center.
“I mean, that’s ludicrous,” Alford said with a chuckle. “I mean, that’s all I’ve got to say on that. I mean, that’s crazy. Not everybody’s getting paid.”
Ball told reporters he wasn’t paid because his father wasn’t interested in inducements while building the family’s Big Baller Brand shoe and apparel label while he was at UCLA. But Lakers teammate and former Utah standout Kyle Kuzma was among the players identified as having been paid by an agent while in college in documents obtained by Yahoo Sports.
Kuzma has declined to comment on the matter, saying he was gathering information.
A possible UCLA connection emerged Friday when an email obtained by Yahoo revealed that Brandon Dawkins, a former business associate of disgraced NBA agent Andy Miller, whose ASM Sports agency is at the heart of the FBI probe into alleged payments to high school prospects, college players and other intermediaries, met with a prominent club team director.
Dawkins said in the email that he had met with Etop Udo-Ema, the director of the high school club team the Compton Magic that Dawkins described as “pretty big time” and “looking for new partners” despite an existing relationship with another sports agency. Several Magic alumni have gone on to become Bruins, including TJ Leaf, Jaylen Hands, Jalen Hill and Ike Anigbogu.
Asked if he was concerned about a possible link between the Compton Magic and ASM, Alford said, “Zero concerns. Zero.”
Alford declined to say how the corruption probe might change the landscape of college basketball but reiterated he was not worried about any connection to UCLA.
“When it comes to that, I always sleep well,” Alford said. “I know how we do things. I know how our staff operates, I know how I operate, so that’s never an issue when I go to bed.”
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch