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Attorney: ESPN's report about Deandre Ayton is 'false and unfounded'

Posted: 5:44 PM, Feb 25, 2018
Updated: 2018-02-26 00:44:14Z

The attorney who is conducting The University of Arizona's internal investigation into an FBI probe said a report that implied star freshman Deandre Ayton accepted money in exchange for playing at UA is "false and unfounded."

ESPN's Mark Schlabach reported Friday that  FBI wiretaps revealed UA men's basketball coach Sean Miller discussing a $100,000 payment to Ayton  with a sports agent, in order to lure the prized recruit to Tucson.

"I am aware of media reports and public relations suggesting that University of Arizona Men's Basketball student-athlete DeAndre Ayton should not be deemed eligible to compete due to a perception that he or his family received money or other benefits in connection with his recruitment at Arizona. These reports are false and unfounded," Kelly said in a statement Sunday.

"Over the past several months, Mr. Ayton has voluntarily submitted to several interviews, by federal prosecutors and the FBI, by University and PAC-12 compliance officials, by representatives of the NCAA, and by Steptoe & Johnson, the independent law firm engaged by the University to review these matters. In each of these interviews, Mr. Ayton has credibly and consistently maintained that neither he nor any member of his family, not any representative thereof, received any money or extra benefit to influence his decision to attend the University of Arizona. Not a shred of evidence has been adduced suggesting otherwise, which federal investigators and NCAA officials have acknowledged."

In a separate statement Saturday, Ayton's attorney said Ayton's family is "outraged and disgusted by the recent reported news stories which have falsely implied" Ayton and his family "have any involvement in illegal or prohibited activities regarding his decision to matriculate at the University of Arizona."

Ayton was permitted to play in the Wildcats' game at Oregon on Saturday night, but Miller did not coach in the game. In a statement Saturday, Miller said he and UA determined it was best that he not coach the game, but said he is "confident" he will be "vindicated."

The 7-foot-1 Ayton is leading the Pac-12 in points and rebounds this season. He is projected by most experts to be the No. 1 or 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

In September, former UA assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson was one of four college basketball coaches arrested after being charged with fraud and corruption following a federal investigation that began in 2015.