CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At ACC media day on Wednesday, Pitt men’s basketball coach Jeff Capel denied any wrongdoing in the recruitment of five-star 2018 prospect Zion Williamson to Duke.
Williamson, the No. 5 player in the 2018 class according to 247 Sports composite ranking, was recruited by Capel to Duke out of Spartanburg (S.C.) Day School before Capel left the Blue Devils to coach at Pitt this spring.
During the college basketball corruption trial in New York last week, Williamson was named in evidence presented as player that had been a part of a discussion between former Adidas consultant Merl Code and Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend.
According to a wiretapped phone conversation, Code and Townsend discussed what Williamson’s stepfather was asking in return for Williamson’s commitment.
“I know what he’s asking for,” Code said, according to Adam Zagoria. “He’s asking for opportunities from an occupational prospective. He’s asking for money in the pocket. And he’s asking for housing for him and the family.”
Capel said that Williamson’s name being brought up didn’t cause him any concern.
“No, it doesn’t,” Capel said. “First and foremost, he was an amazing kid. He was a great kid. I don’t know what other people do or what they did. When I was at Duke, and even at Pitt, we recruit a kid, we never get concerned what anyone’s doing. I know it’s contrary to what other people think, but I have never, ever said a word about another school. I don’t care about them. A lot of times, I don’t know everyone that’s recruiting them.
“I know what we did in recruiting Zion and I know the man that I worked for and so, there was no concern from my standpoint.”
Who he worked for was Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who reaffirmed on Wednesday his belief that Duke did not commit any violations in recruiting Williamson and that Williamson had been sufficiently vetted by Duke’s compliance department.
Williamson is expected to start the season in Duke’s lineup, a decision that could put any wins they accrue in jeopardy if he’s later deemed to be ineligible. A family member soliciting impermissible benefits is an NCAA violation, even if those benefits were never received by the player and even if the player never committed to that school. That means that it’s possible that Duke could be hurt by Williamson being deemed ineligible, even if it’s found that Capel, Krzyzewski and company didn’t do anything wrong themselves.