Cameron Reddish has known since ninth grade, when Penn State offered him a full scholarship, that he was a special basketball talent.
Three years later, Reddish and some of the top prep players in the country will play in Wednesday night’s McDonald’s All-American game. Reddish and some of his Duke-bound teammates in the prestigious game are all aware of the scandal that’s rocked college basketball this season with the FBI investigating corruption that led to criminal charges against assistant coaches, agents, apparel company employees and others.
“It’s crazy, it’s dirty, it’s kind of messed up,” Reddish told The Associated Press. “That’s a lot of grown men trying to get one over on young kids, so it’s a really messed up business, but at the end of the day you have to stay trustworthy to who you know.”
Reddish, R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Tre Jones are part of the Blue Devils’ recruiting class, considered the best in the nation.
They all say strong support systems have helped them steer clear of any unwanted contact.
Williamson, a South Carolina prep sensation with YouTube fan videos that have been viewed millions of times, understands how a teenager could get caught up in the whirlwind of attention. But Williamson said he never was tempted to meet with anyone who could possibly put his career in jeopardy.
He credits his stepfather, former Clemson player Lee Anderson, and his mother, Sharonda Sampson, with keeping unwelcome people from getting close.
“I don’t think it’s right because they’re high school kids,” Williamson told The AP. “Some high school kids haven’t seen a lot of money at once. They take the bait for it and the next thing you know, they find themselves in a situation where they can’t go to a dream school that they’ve dreamed of going to since they were a kid. They have to go overseas and probably won’t enjoy it as much as college.
“I think agents can wait until the kid says he’s declaring for the draft.”
Barrett, considered the nation’s top recruit, said he’s been fortunate to have enough support so that he can focus on school and basketball. His father, Rowan Barrett, is an executive vice president and former assistant general manager of Canada Basketball.
“I’ve kind of seen some of the stuff, but I haven’t paid too much attention,” R.J. Barrett said.
Rowan Barrett said there’s a reason for that.
“You always hear things and you’re mindful and all that, but I think for us and our family, our focus is on getting better,” Rowan Barrett said. “If you get better, all that stuff will be there later for you.”
Kansas signee Quentin Grimes said he supports an NCAA commission, led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, that was recently convened and will try to find ways to reform and modernize rules in college basketball.
But Grimes believes the best way to avoid unwanted contact is to rely on his gut instincts and discuss anything questionable with his parents and coaches.
“My mom is in finance and she knows not to have contact or take money from those people,” Grimes said. “She does a pretty good job of keeping those people away from me.”
Grimes said his mother Tonja did her due diligence with every school, trying to ensure he wouldn’t be affected by the federal probe once he got on campus.
“I think that’s a rumor for every school, but she asked every coach that was in my final four about the rumors,” Grimes said, “and every coach just straight up kept it real with her and said that doesn’t happen there and if it did that I should go somewhere else.”
More AP college basketball: https://collegebasketball.ap.org ; https://twitter.com/AP—Top25 and https://www.podcastone.com/ap-sports-special-events