How the ongoing sneaker wars may have influenced a major college commitment

The ongoing FBI investigation into amateur basketball – the same one that led to the downfall of Louisville coach Rick Pitino – may have an intriguing new development connected with one of the feel-good stories of the Class of 2018.When New Albany (Ind.) five-star basketball recruit Romeo Langford committed to Indiana he was hailed as a hometown loyalist who wanted to bring success back home rather than chase it afar. According to the Washington Post, his commitment may actually have been connected to Adidas’ sponsorship of the AAU team run by his father. The paper cites extensive interviews with Pitino himself, who once was a major recruiter of Langford, as well as other sneaker executives connected with Adidas’ youth basketball operations.”The way they phrased it, it was whoever [shoe company] was going to pay the dad’s AAU program the most money, gets it,” said Pitino in a recent phone interview. A few days later, Adidas’s league added a new team: Twenty Two Vision, featuring Romeo Langford on the court and Tim Langford as team director. Shoe company sponsorships can reach $100,000 to $150,000, and team directors who limit expenses can pay themselves salaries from those amounts.Indeed, Twenty Two Vision competed on the 2017 Adidas Uprising circuit, with Romeo Langford providing a star turn at point guard. Then, in April came this Tweet from the team’s account, @twentytwovision:If that feels a bit fishy, it probably is. For his part, the elder Langford adamantly denied receiving any financial benefit from the arrangement with Adidas – “It wasn’t about money for us. Our son . . . his time will come if he stays blessed and stays healthy,” he told the Post – but he then repeatedly ducked all contact from Post reporters, as did the person he offered to put them in touch with, who allegedly handled finances for the team.In fact, a deeper dive makes it appear that Adidas has worked diligently to ensure it was best positioned to land Langford when time came to choose a college. The brand was the first to offer New Albany a shoe deal, stepping forward in 2016 with Langford was still a sophomore.

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