Ex-Arizona State players questioned by FBI
PHOENIX (AP) _ A former Arizona State basketball player was said to have received tens of thousands of dollars from a gambler who bet against the Sun Devils in four 1994 games.
The Arizona Republic said today it was told by sources familiar with a Phoenix-based grand jury probe into point-shaving allegations that the gambler paid point guard Stevin ``Hedake″ Smith, second on the team’s all-time scoring list, either to lose or keep the games within the point spread.
Two other players the sources wouldn’t identify also may have received money, the Republic said it was told. The paper said the sources also wouldn’t identify the gambler, who was said to have bet against Arizona State.
The newspaper also said it couldn’t reach Smith, whose mother said has been playing basketball in France but is believed to have returned to the United States. Smith’s Utah-based agent, Benny Smith, also didn’t respond, the paper said.
While playing with Sioux Falls of the Continental Basketball Association earlier this year, Smith said he knew nothing of the investigation.
Smith was among four Sun Devils sentenced in April 1992 to two years’ probation and 100 hours of community service for fraudulent use of a telephone card issued to an assistant coach.
Meanwhile, suburban Mesa-based Tribune Newspapers of Arizona said today that at least two players from the 1993-94 team acknowledged having been questioned by the FBI but that four others said they have not spoken with the FBI. Smith, 25, was not among the four.
News reports surfaced early this month that a Phoenix-based grand jury was investigating possible point-shaving. Similar allegations were investigated earlier but resulted in no charges.
The FBI said acknowledged in April it was investigating but has declined to comment since on grounds that such investigations are confidential.
Arizona State officials said coach Bill Frieder will not comment on the probe on instructions from the university’s general counsel.
In March 1994, the Sun Devils were three-point favorites against the Washington State but lost 80-71. Two days later, Arizona State listed as a 10-point favorite over Washington, but the line plummeted to three points when three men bet $250,000 on the Huskies. Alerted by the size of the wager, Las Vegas casinos suspended betting.
The Republic said in early August that the amount wagered actually was $1 million and that Arizona State games with Oregon and Oregon State in January 1994 also were involved. Today, the Republic said a February game with Southern California drew similar betting and that the gambler put $1 million on the March 5 Washington game.
Arizona State beat Oregon and Oregon State but didn’t cover the point spreads, so the gambler won his bets. Arizona State a 7 1/2-point favorite over USC but lost by 12. Against Washington, Arizona State missed its first 14 shots but came back for a 73-55 victory _ a loss for the gambler.
Both the Nevada Gaming Control Board and Pacific-10 Conference have investigated but said they found no wrongdoing on the part of Arizona State.
Regarding the current FBI questioning, Jay Knollmiller, a freshman center on the 1993-94 team, told the Tribune ``there were definitely things I saw″ but wouldn’t elaborate, saying the FBI had asked him not to comment after talking with him three weeks ago.
Center Robert Conlisk, who played 12 games that season, said the FBI spoke to him a week ago. ``I told them I don’t know anything,″ Conlisk told the newspaper.
He also said FBI officials told him they plan to interview every player on the ’93-94 team.
The four ex-Sun Devils who told the Tribune they haven’t been contacted by the FBI are Mario Bennett, Quincy Brewer, Carlos Artis and Eli Lopez, the latter now an assistant Sun Devil coach.
Besides Smith, the three involved in the credit card case were Dwayne Fontana, Lynn Collins and Jamal Faulkner.