A prized recruit projected to be an NBA lottery pick next summer. A financial adviser seeking to worm his way into the prospect’s inner circle. An exchange of cash and gifts in defiance of NCAA rules.
Everything about the salacious accusations made by Mohamed Bamba’s own brother sound disastrous for the Texas signee until the layers are peeled back a little further.
When Ibrahim Johnson posted a profanity-laden 22-minute video Wednesday detailing the relationship between his younger brother and Michigan-based investor Greer Love, he conveniently left out a few details. Chief among them is the fact that Love began serving as a mentor for Bamba long before he ever blossomed into a NBA hopeful.
The relationship began in 2008 when Love started an after-school basketball program at the New York elementary school that Bamba attended. Drawing on his experience as a tutor for athletes at the University of Indiana, Love emphasized academics first, demanding that each child spend an hour reading or doing homework before basketball practice commenced.
“He had a passion for sports, a passion for kids and a passion for helping young people reach their dreams,” said Susan Green, now in her 11th year as principal of Alain L. Locke Elementary School. “That’s what he put together, and we as a community are really appreciative of those efforts.”
In his only public comments since Johnson posted his video, Love told 247Sports on Thursday afternoon that he has supplied academic and financial support to nearly every student who was part of that after-school basketball program in 2008 and 2009. Love declined comment to Yahoo Sports, but Green corroborated that account, telling Yahoo Sports that Love has remained close to many of his former players, attending several of their high school graduations and organizing dinners and reunions whenever he returned to New York.
“When I run into the boys in the neighborhood, they all talk about Greer,” Green said. “As far as I know, he has maintained a relationship with a lot of the boys. I can name three of them off the top of my head without blinking an eye.”
It’s certainly possible that Love has been extra generous with Bamba with an eye toward working with him or representing him in the future, but the length of their relationship makes it unlikely that he will run afoul of NCAA rules. The fact that Love forged a bond with Bamba before he evolved into a top recruit likely means the NCAA will consider it a “pre-existing relationship,” meaning Love could lavish the 6-foot-11 center with any gifts he wants.
Love’s involvement in Bamba’s recruitment was no mystery prior to Wednesday. All the schools that recruited Bamba knew Love was a key point person and he was frequently quoted or referred to as a mentor in stories published about Bamba the past couple years.
“When Mo asked me to guide him and help coordinate the logistics of his recruitment,” Love told 247Sports, “I immediately engaged the former Chief Compliance Officer of two Big 10 / Big 12 schools, who provided frequent consultation on a variety of matters. Doing things the right way has been our top priority since day one. Mo’s got way too much to lose to take any chances on anything even remotely impermissible.”
An NCAA spokeswoman told Yahoo Sports the organization is aware of the accusations made by Johnson and “working with the school.” But if the NCAA enforcement staff tries to build a case against Bamba and Love, Johnson certainly won’t be the most reliable star witness.
The former basketball player at Division II University of Montevallo has a troubled history that includes a few recent arrests. He also blames Love for cutting him out of Bamba’s recruitment and causing a rift between the two brothers.
In the video that he filmed poolside and without a shirt, Johnson admitted that he intended to become a sports agent, represent his brother and cash in on the riches Bamba could earn as soon as next year. Going public with these accusations was apparently Johnson’s way of getting revenge on Bamba for siding with Love over him.
“He’s not going to play this year in the NCAA because I already reported him to the NCAA and I’m already going to meet with the NCAA,” Johnson said. “He’s not going to play this year. I’m not going to lie to you. I exposed that kid.”
It’s a good bet Johnson’s wrong, which is very good news for a Texas program that badly needs Bamba to play next season.
A consensus top-five prospect in the 2017 class known best for his shot-blocking prowess and 7-foot-9 wingspan, Bamba chose Texas last month over fellow finalists Kentucky, Duke and Michigan. Bamba is the centerpiece of a top-five recruiting class expected to vault the Longhorns back to national prominence after a disastrous 22-loss season a year ago.
For a few hours on Wednesday night, that appeared to be in jeopardy. Now, further reporting has revealed that this scandal may not be as bad for Bamba and Texas as it initially seemed.
– – – – – – –