SALT LAKE CITY — Kyle Kuzma’s inclusion on a list of players allegedly receiving loans while still in college from former NBA agent Andy Miller and his agency ASM Sports came as a surprise to many.
The Los Angeles Lakers rookie, who played at the University of Utah from 2014-17, reportedly received $9,500 according to documents obtained by Yahoo! Sports. Kuzma is included on a balance sheet titled “Loan to Players” that showed accounts through the end of 2015.
Kuzma’s mother, Karri, denied the report.
“I never knew anything about it,” she told the Deseret News.
Priority Sports, Kuzma’s current agency, was aware of the allegations but declined to discuss specifics.
“We don’t have anything to say, if it's commented on, it'll come from him," said a representative.
Kuzma, meanwhile, didn’t speak to reporters at Lakers practice on Friday. However, teammate Lonzo Ball spoke out on the topic.
Bill Oram of the Southern California News Group reported that Ball said that “everybody knows everybody’s getting paid” and that’s just how it is.
“You might as well make it legal,” Ball continued. “That’s how I feel.”
Ball, though, denied getting paid during his one year at UCLA — noting that his dad, LaVar, was not big on that.
As for Kuzma, Ball said he was “unfazed” by the alleged payments surfacing in media reports.
“He’s in the NBA now,” Ball added. “He really don’t care. Whatever happened is in the past. Now he’s just living life.”
At Utah, Kuzma’s former coach Larry Krystkowiak and athletics director Dr. Chris Hill released statements on the matter.
“This situation came to my attention this morning, and I have absolutely no knowledge about it," Krystkowiak said. "At this point, these are allegations. I know we run a clean program and my complete focus will be getting our squad ready for our game against USC.”
Hill, meanwhile, noted that unethical agents have been an issue for many years despite repeated educational efforts by college officials.
"Certainly this is a topic that our Pac-12 reform committee on NCAA men’s basketball is addressing. Personally, I welcome the scrutiny on the sport of men’s basketball because the behavior of some agents, along with reports of other illegal recruiting activities, is hurting the sport,” Hill stated. “Coach Krystkowiak has a great deal of integrity and runs a clean program, but this situation shows there are areas outside a coach’s control that need to be fixed.”
The ASM ledger includes the names of several other players. Diamond Stone of the Salt Lake City Stars (the G-League affiliate of the Utah Jazz) reportedly received $14,303 in loans during his career at the University of Maryland.
Former Iowa State player Monte Morris is also listed as meeting with or having meals with Christian Dawkins of ASM Sports, but denies any involvement.
"I didn't do nothing at all. He never paid for nothing of mine," Morris told the Deseret News.
“I was kind of in disbelief at first and then it pissed me off a little bit because I know I’ve gone by the book with Monte,” said Tonya Morris, Monte’s mother and manager. “I know for a fact I would never jeopardize Monte’s future for any amount of money. Not one coin."
Current college stars Miles Bridges of Michigan State and Wendell Carter of Duke were also mentioned in the report for violating the NCAA’s amateurism rules.
The report lists several stars currently playing in college, including Michigan State's Miles Bridges and Duke's Wendell Carter as receiving benefits that would violate the NCAA's amateurism rules.
“These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America. Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a released statement. "Following the Southern District of New York's indictments last year, the NCAA Board of Governors and I formed the independent Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations on how to clean up the sport. With these latest allegations, it's clear this work is more important now than ever.
"The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity. We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts,” Emmert continued.
In October, Krystkowiak praised Kuzma and his mentor, Vin Sparacio, for doing things the right way during the recruiting process. Someone close to the Rise Academy in Philadelphia, where Kuzma completed his prep career, told Utah assistant DeMarlo Slocum that it would probably cost $50,000 to get him. The unknown caller was reported to the NCAA. Kuzma and Sparacio then made an unofficial visit to Utah and committed to the Utes,
“My whole point with that is that Kuz wasn’t looking for shortcuts. I don’t even know how much he was privy to some of that, that took place behind the scenes,” Krystkowiak said after a fall practice. “But the entire point with that comment is to talk about how special it was when it got printed around this building to ‘trust the process’ and that there aren’t any shortcuts. That’s a guy that did it the right way.
“And now, lo and behold, he’s having a lot of success at the next level,” Krystkowiak continued. “So it was a lot of kudos to him, not trying to drag him into anything negative that was going on. To me, that’s a positive.”
Krystkowiak noted that Kuzma received great leadership from Sparacio, a friend of the Utes who has believed in the program for a long time. Aware of Kuzma’s dreams and goals, Sparacio made sure they didn’t get involved in any bad scenarios.
“It’s a positive story about there’s way to get into a school that (doesn't) involve any improprieties,” Krystkowiak said at the time. “And sometimes if you take the high road, it ends up working out for you.”
Contributing: Eric Woodyard, Aaron Morton