It’s been an unprecedented offseason in college basketball, featuring an FBI investigation and the arrests of four assistant coaches. Tuesday, however, a story surfaced that might be the strangest yet.
Gary Parrish of CBS Sports reported that Ron Bell, a former close friend of Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner, has identified himself as the individual who provided impermissible benefits to Georgia Tech players Tadric Jackson and Josh Okogie. Georgia Tech self-reported the violations to the on Oct. 2, but Bell said the violations disclosed by the school did not encompass the breadth of the benefits he provided.
“Not even close,” Bell told Parrish.
Bell, who has been close friends with Pastner since Pastner was an assistant coach at Arizona from 2002-2008, said he flew Jackson and Okogie to his home and Tucson and bought each shoes and clothes. Those benefits were reported by Georgia Tech to the NCAA, and both players were suspended indefinitely.
However, Bell said he also spent about $500 on groceries for the players, and he provided photo evidence of Okogie and Jackson in his swimming pool. Bell said he paid for a 220-mile roundtrip ride from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to Tucson as well as a $120 meal at a Houston’s in Atlanta.
Perhaps most importantly, Bell said Pastner, last season’s ACC Coach of the Year, “100 percent” knew that Jackson and Okogie were with him in Tucson. Bell even alleges that Pastner asked him to host the players.
“[Pastner] told me, ‘I need you to make sure my players are happy and that we’re winning games. Whatever it takes,'” Bell told Parrish. “And I said, ‘Whatever it takes?’ And he said, ‘Whatever it takes.'”
The report Georgia Tech filed with the NCAA claims that Pastner had no knowledge of the trip until Oct. 2, and that he immediately self-reported them upon becoming aware of the violations.
Bell, however, claims that he and Pastner had a falling out on Oct. 2, and that Pastner only self-reported the violations then because Bell had threatened to release details of the trip.
“I said, ‘I’ve been protecting you for two years. And if you don’t watch yourself, if I start self-reporting, you’re going to be coaching high school basketball,'” Bell told Parrish. “And he said, ‘Are you threatening me?’ And I remember it like it was yesterday. I said, ‘Josh, I don’t make threats. Everything I say I’m going to do, I do it.'”
Bell also told Parrish that he had provided cash to a few of Pastner’s players while Pastner coached at Memphis, including current Ole Miss guard Markel Crawford. When Crawford announced his intention to transfer from Memphis, Bell claims he bought plane tickets for Crawford to visit him in Tucson in an attempt to convince Crawford to rejoin Pastner at Georgia Tech. Crawford, however, never made the trip.
Pastner and the Yellow Jackets are currently in China, preparing for Friday’s season-opener against UCLA in Shanghai. A Georgia Tech spokesperson released a statement to Parrish saying: “Georgia Tech highly prioritizes NCAA compliance and will investigate any allegations regarding NCAA rules violations thoroughly.”
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