Lawsuit: Duke Player Purchased $100,000 in Jewelry
Written by Danny Robbins, Associated Press Friday, 07 September 2012 15:26
A starter on Duke's 2010 national championship team purchased nearly $100,000 in custom jewelry that season from a New York firm that caters to professional athletes and is now suing him for failing to pay the balance of what he owes.
Lance Thomas purchased five pieces of diamond jewelry at a cost of $97,800 on Dec. 21, 2009, in the middle of his senior season, according the lawsuit. Documents included with the suit indicate he made a $30,000 down payment and received $67,800 in credit from the firm, the balance that remains unpaid.
Thomas started 39 games at forward during the 2009-2010 season, including the Blue Devils' 61-59 victory over Butler in the championship game. He wasn't drafted by an NBA team but played last season for the New Orleans Hornets.
The Associated Press recently obtained a copy of the lawsuit, which was filed in January but hasn't been publicly disclosed. It was filed in Austin, Texas, because Thomas was playing for the Austin Toros of the NBA Developmental League at the time.
A Duke spokesman said the university knows about the lawsuit and is looking into it.
"We have been made aware of a lawsuit filed by a jeweler against former men's basketball player Lance Thomas and we are currently looking into the matter," said Jon Jackson, the school's associate athletic director for media relations.
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said the organization also is aware of the matter and is in communication with Duke.
NCAA rules regarding amateurism prohibit athletes from receiving benefits that aren't available to all students. Speaking generally, Osburn said "the test" for such a violation is whether "the general student body, or someone similarly situated, would be able to get the same benefit or treatment."
Thomas, 24, is from Scotch Plains, N.J., and played at prep power St. Benedict's, according to his biography on the Duke website. The site said his mother is a manager at a Ford plant in New Jersey.
John Spencer, an agent who has represented Thomas, said he wasn't aware of the jewelry purchase. He referred all comment on the lawsuit to an Austin attorney who is representing Thomas in the matter. The attorney didn't return phone messages from the AP.
Rafaello & Co., which also does business as A+A Diamonds Ltd., promotes itself as a "deluxe" jeweler whose customers include New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony and actors Jamie Foxx and Don Cheadle.
Mike Bowers, the firm's attorney, said Thomas purchased a black diamond necklace, a diamond-encrusted watch, a pair of diamond studs, a diamond cross and a black diamond pendant in the shape of Jesus' head. According to the purchase order, signed by Thomas, the player agreed to pay a deposit of at least 25 percent of the purchase price and the remainder in 15 days.
Bowers said he was unaware of how Thomas made the required down payment.
Bowers said he's seen no evidence that anyone other than Thomas was involved in the transaction and he doesn't know why the Duke player was extended credit for most of the purchase.
"It was a clean, clear-cut transaction between Mr. Thomas and my client, and I don't see anything that warrants me asking anything beyond that," Bowers said. "Speaking hypothetically, if he came in on a bicycle with tattered jeans, I doubt seriously he would have been sold jewelry, but I'm not drawing conclusions. The terms here are clear."
Rafaello & Co. filed a similar lawsuit against Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant last year, claiming he hadn't paid $240,000 for jewelry he purchased between January and May 2010. The purchases detailed in that suit, which has since been settled, occurred after Bryant announced he was leaving Oklahoma State and was entering the 2010 NFL draft.
Referee Felicia Grinter Brings Expertise to HBCUs
Written by Roscoe Nance, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com Friday, 02 March 2012 16:32
Felicia Grinter was a point guard on the Volunteer State Community College women’s basketball team when she enrolled in a basketball officiating class because she needed a credit in health and physical education.
Little did Grinter know that class would launch a career that has seen her become one of the top women’s basketball referees. Grinter’s standing among game officials was confirmed when she was selected to officiate in the 2012 London Olympics, which will be held in London July 27-Aug. 12. She is the only American referee chosen to work the Summer Games.
“It is definitely the highest point of my career,’’ Grinter says. “It’s been a blessing. All I could do was holler when I found out and give blessings to the Lord above for path he has led me on.’’
Grinter started down the officiating path on the recommendation of Charles Watkins, a long-time official who was among the first black referees to work a full schedule in the SEC. Watkins spoke to Grinter’s officiating class at Volunteer State. During his presentation, he had class members come on the floor and go through the mechanics of officiating. He says he noticed that Grinter had a natural knack for officiating, and he recommended that she pursue becoming a referee. He took Grinter under his wing, and has been her mentor ever since.
“I saw something in her that was uniquely different,’’ says Watkins, who retired from college officiating 27 years and now officiates junior varsity and middle school games in Nashville. “The fact that she was so coachable made it a joy working with her. I never had to tell her to do anything more than once.’’
Watkins helped Grinter get work officiating middle schools, but she acknowledges that she was full of trepidation as she headed down the officiating path.
“I said it wasn’t for me,’’ she says. “I didn’t like people hollering at me. I’m a laid back, quiet person.’’
However, because she was an athlete and couldn’t hold a full-time job, and since she needed money, she decided she would try it one more year.
Ultimately, she gave up her playing career, took a job at the local Ford Motor Co. plant inspecting windshields and concentrated on officiating.
Following her third year officiating, she attended OVC referees camp and her career took off from that point.
“If anyone had asked me 10-15 years ago if I would be officiating now, I would have said no way,’’ Grinter says.
Grinter balanced officiating and working at Ford for years before taking a leave of absence to see how officiating full-time would work. She never went back.
“I have no regrets,’’ she says.” It has been a blessing for me and allowed me to see the world. If it weren’t for officiating, I’d be sitting behind a desk in a factory confined.’’
In addition to the MEAC, Grinter currently works in the ACC, ASun, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, Colonial, C-USA, Horizon, Mid-American, Missouri Valley, OVC, SEC, Sun Belt and SWAC.
“Once she got the exposure it was easy (for her to get work),’’ Watkins says. “They saw the potential that I saw.’’
Grinter has worked the Final Four twice, including in 2011, and numerous conference tournaments. She worked in the NBA Development League for four seasons, and has called games in the WNBA since 2004. In addition, Grinter has been a FIBA/USA Basketball official since 2003.
She says working MEAC and SWAC games is special for her and has made her a better official.
“I enjoy them because it gives me the opportunity to referee HBCUs,’’ she says. “You can see the kids who come out of those universities, how well they play and how athletic they are. That helped me to be able to officiate more athletic players. They like to a fast-paced game.’’
Grinter says that even though the style of play in the college game changes from conference to conference, her officiating standard doesn’t. That has vaulted her to the top.
“A game is a game is a game to me,’’ she says. “Some conferences are more physical than others, but I don’t make don’t make any changes. What teams give me that’s what I officiate whether it’s the top team or the bottom team.’’
She applies the same rule of thumb when she works international and professional games even though the styles are vastly different.
“The difference in collegiate officiating and professional officiating is pro players are taller, bigger, stronger and the game is quicker,’’ she says. “Those players are being paid to do a job. They’re going to challenge us with calls. In the international game the pace is probably the biggest difference. It’s a very fast-paced game.
They play to win on offense. Here in the States its defense. When they shoot the ball and it comes off, they’re gone.
“The challenge is different languages they speak. Some officials speak a little English a language barrier. Coaches don’t say much to the officials. They coaches coach their teams. That’s it. It’s easier (dealing with coaches) than in States – much easier. What they say, I don’t know what they saying, and they don’t know what I’m saying.’’
Even if Grinter could understand what coaches were saying in those situations, it’s unlikely that the situation would escalate because of her calm demeanor and the thick skin she has developed over the years.
“I definitely have thick skin,’’ she says. “You have to. The higher level of officiating you go into, the more you have to respond to coaches. They have a job to do like I have job to do. I let my calm demeanor prevail. That’s just my personality. I give 100 percent. Coaches have a job to do. I understand it’s heat of the moment. Someone has to be the calmer of the two.’’
Watkins, who has mentored a number of men’s and women’s officials, calls Grinter “one of his prized pupils’’ because she doesn’t have an over-sized ego and her eagerness to learn even at this stage of her career. He watches her games every opportunity he gets and critiques her performance.
“There are a lot of egotistical individuals, who are money hungry and glory,’’ he says. “The result is many are in it for the wrong reason.’’
Grinter isn’t in that number, and that enables her to acknowledge the mistakes that she might make during a game.
“For us as officials, we only have a split second to make a decision,’’ she says. “Everybody else gets to see the replay. I know I give it 100%. Every call, every whistle, I’m hoping I’m making the right call. When I miss a call I just say to myself I’m human. If coach asks, I say I missed it. I’ll do better the next time. I’m upfront. I have ownership. That comes with experience and confidence. That’s where I am in my career.’’
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And that’s why Grinter is at the top of her profession.
AU Basketball Pioneer Getting Posthumous Honor
Written by Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com Friday, 24 February 2012 05:09
When Coach Dave Carasco started coming to visit the late Richard "Dickie" Wells, the age of black players being recruited in big numbers for white colleges had not yet dawned. It was just a couple years removed from the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision that outlawed segregation in the public schools in America.Add a comment
Ex-student: Wake brushed off sex assault incident
Written by Joedy McCreary, AP Sports Writer Sunday, 22 May 2011 20:43
A former Wake Forest student said the school brushed off her allegations of a sexual assault by a basketball player to protect its athletic program.
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NCAA proposes changes to men's, women's games
Written by (AP) Wednesday, 04 May 2011 22:10
College basketball could start looking more like the NBA next season.
The NCAA men's and women's basketball rules committees said Wednesday they are recommending the use of a restricted area arc three feet from the basket and changing the terminology of intentional and flagrant fouls.
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