The man who heard out LSU basketball coach Will Wade’s “strong-ass offer” for a recruit, believed to be Javonte Smart, is family friend Shannon Forman Sr., a former Baton Rouge high school hoops star himself, according to a Yahoo! Sports report posted Thursday morning.
Forman, who won four straight state titles at Southern Lab in the 1990s, is named in emails that convicted basketball hustler and aspiring agent Christian Dawkins wrote back in 2016 to his bosses at ASM Sports, a major pro sports agency, Yahoo! Sports reported.
Wade also referred to “Shannon” in the June 2017 wiretapped phone call with Dawkins in which he groused about trouble with a middleman, “Shannon,” in closing a deal for a recruit, according to Yahoo, which cited multiple unnamed sources identifying “Shannon” as Forman.
In the wiretapped call, the contents of which Yahoo and ESPN reported on March 7, Wade spoke about “this Smart thing,” presumably a reference to standout LSU freshman guard Javonte Smart, who was a star player at Scotlandville High and a four-star college prospect at the time.
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Wade indicated that he'd taken a "strong-ass offer" for Smart to a middleman, identified as Forman by Yahoo. But Wade had grown frustrated with delays in closing the deal, apparently because of the middleman's interest in a bigger cut.
The specifics of the “strong-ass offer” weren’t detailed in the conversation.
"The problem was, I know why he didn't take it now, it was [expletive] tilted toward the family a little bit," Wade said on the call with Dawkins, which was secretly recorded by the FBI. "It was tilted toward taking care of the mom, taking care of the kid. Like it was tilted towards that. Now I know for a fact he didn't explain everything to the mom. I know now, he didn't get enough of the piece of the pie in the deal."
Although Wade's comments suggested cash or other compensation was being paid to Smart or those around him -- which would violate the NCAA's amateurism rules -- no further evidence has publicly surfaced to back up such allegations.
The Thursday Yahoo! Sports report didn't include any new details that might hint at additional potential violations or improprieties involving LSU recruiting.
In another wiretapped call with Dawkins, reported by ESPN, Wade joked about offering to compensate more than the “rookie minimum” and said he’d closed deals for “as good of players as him” that were “a lot simpler than this.”
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Wade was suspended indefinitely by the university March 8 after refusing to meet with LSU and NCAA officials to discuss the wiretapped phone calls.
Wade hasn’t disputed the authenticity of the wiretaps but said the portions of the calls reported publicly “don’t begin to tell the whole story” and asked LSU fans and others to “withhold their judgment until the record is complete.”
Smart missed LSU’s regular season finale, a blowout win over Vanderbilt, but was cleared after the initial steps in an investigation by LSU and the NCAA turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.
“Though the inquiry is not closed, after multiple additional interviews, there has been no wrongdoing identified to date," LSU said in a statement announcing Smart's return.
It's unclear whether Forman was among those interviewed.
Tom Skinner, LSU’s general counsel and vice president of legal affairs, told The Advocate earlier this month that LSU interviewed two people potentially referred to by Wade in the wiretap as part of the investigation. Skinner didn't respond to questions Thursday about whether one of those was Forman.
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LSU plays Michigan State at 6:08 p.m. Friday, in LSU’s first appearance in the Sweet 16 since 2006.
Smart told Yahoo! Sports Thursday morning he’s known Forman “most of my life” and that Forman coached him as a youth.
"He's my mentor. He's real close to me, and he looks out for me. He's been there most of my life,” Smart told Yahoo! Sports in LSU's locker room in Washington. “When I really got into basketball, he was there for me. When I really started to focus on basketball, he was always there for me."
As for Wade's reported reference to Forman in the wiretapped call, Smart told Yahoo! Sports, "I don't know about that. I don't have any comment about that."
Forman declined to comment when reached by Yahoo! Sports. Attempts by The Advocate to reach Forman were unsuccessful.
“I’ve met Shannon,” said interim LSU coach Tony Benford when asked about Forman by a reporter at a press conference Thursday morning. “He's been, I don't know as far as mentoring. I know he's got a relationship with Javonte. That's all I know.”
Forman has coached youth basketball in Baton Rouge but hasn’t been involved in any area high school programs, nor does he appear to have coached summer or travel teams for high school-aged players or worked with middle school programs, according to a number of people involved in Baton Rouge-area basketball. Yahoo! Sports nonetheless refers to Forman as a Baton Rouge basketball “fixture.”
Forman sat next to Smart and Smart's mother and grandmother as he signed his letter of intent to play for LSU in the fall of 2018.
After leading Southern Lab to four straight state titles in the mid-1990s, Forman was recruited to play at the University of Memphis by then-head coach Tic Price, who’d just come over from the University of New Orleans, and Price’s assistant, future LSU head coach Johnny Jones.
Forman and Smart’s father, Jerry Matthews, played together for a season in 1993-94 at Southern Lab when Matthews was a senior and Forman a standout freshman.
An email written by Dawkins and viewed by Yahoo! Sports appears to link Forman to both Smart and Brandon Sampson, a former Louisiana Mr. Basketball and star at Madison Prep who played for Jones at LSU.
"I met with ... Shannon Forman, who has Javonte smart (sic). (Forman) had two kids in the elite 24 game that have a shot down the line. And he also wants to give us Brandon Sampson,” Dawkins wrote in the email to his bosses, according to Yahoo! Sports.
The Under Armour Elite 24 game in August 2016 included Smart along with other highly regarded high school players, including current LSU star freshman forward Naz Reid, one of the nation's top-ranked recruits coming out of high school in New Jersey.
Dawkins worked as a so-called "runner" for NBA agent Andy Miller's ASM Sports agency, where his job was to develop relationships with NBA players and prospects — as well as coaches and relatives — in order to win their business. He later attempted to launch his own sports management company.
Dawkins landed NBA forward Jarell Martin, an All-American at Madison Prep in Baton Rouge and star at LSU from 2013 to 2015, as a client for ASM and also courted at least two other LSU players.
Dawkins included possible payments to Sampson, a 6'5" shooting guard, and 18 other "prospective players" in college or high school in a proposed business plan he emailed to potential partners in early September 2017. That was Sampson’s junior year and Wade’s first year as LSU’s head coach following Jones’ firing at the end of the 2016-2017 season.
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Dawkins listed potential payments of $500 per month for Sampson until December 2017, then $1,000 per month through April 2018, according to ESPN, which obtained the business plan and reported it in November.
It’s unclear whether Dawkins ever made any payments or even approached Sampson with the offer. Dawkins was arrested by the FBI just weeks after writing the email as part of a wide-ranging federal probe into college basketball corruption.
Sampson left LSU at the end of the 2017-18 season to pursue a professional career. He’s under contract with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and the team’s minor-league affiliate, the Windy City Bulls.
Sealed court documents and bank records obtained by Yahoo! Sports in February 2018 also listed a payment of $16,000 from Dawkins and Miller, his former boss, to LSU guard Tim Quarterman during Quarterman’s junior season in 2015-16.