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Christian Dawkins returns to hoops world after federal corruption trials

Pete Thamel and Dan Wetzel
·6-min read

Christian Dawkins, the controversial middleman at the center of a prolonged FBI investigation that rocked college basketball, is working again in the sports representation business.

Dawkins and registered NBA agent Brian Jungreis cofounded their own agency, Par-Lay Sports and Entertainment, late last year.

In separate interviews with Yahoo Sports, both men stated that Jungreis will handle all negotiations and player contracts. Dawkins will focus on the music and entertainment side of the business, while also utilizing his deep ties in the basketball world.

“I haven’t done everything correct in my life,” Dawkins said. “I have made mistakes. I put myself in bad positions. But anybody who looks at what happened can see that I was never charged with cheating any players or clients. There haven't been any failures from me when it comes to that.”

Dawkins, 28, was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison after being convicted at separate trials in 2018 and 2019 on fraud and bribery charges. He is out while appealing both.

He, along with nine other defendants, were found or pled guilty to paying high school basketball stars and their families to attend specific college programs and later bribing assistant basketball coaches to help steer potential NBA clients to a startup marketing agency he was running.

The scandal has led to major violation cases in college basketball at numerous high-profile programs including Kansas, Louisville and Arizona. It additionally contributed to the firing of Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino from Louisville, as well as numerous assistant coaches at various programs.

Dawkins never denied at his first trial that he paid players and coaches to steer them to certain colleges, high schools and AAU teams. He often worked in conjunction with Adidas.

Christian Dawkins arrives for sentencing at federal court in New York, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Christian Dawkins arrives for sentencing at federal court in New York, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, however, were able to gain a conviction based on the concept that the colleges were victims of fraud because they fielded a team with players who were ineligible under NCAA guidelines after Dawkins sent them the players. While some recruiters within the basketball program may have been working with Dawkins, the institution itself claimed it was unaware of its exposure.

At the second trial, Dawkins was found guilty of paying assistant coaches at a handful of programs to help steer potential draft picks to his fledgling agency. Dawkins contended, and said on FBI recorded conversations, that the idea of paying the coaches made no sense and was an idea pushed by undercover agents who were posing as financial backers to his company.

Par-Lay has already hit the ground running, negotiating the NBA contracts of Toronto’s Fred VanVleet and Minnesota’s Malik Beasley, which totaled about $145 million.

While felony convictions prevent Dawkins from serving as an actual agent, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) can’t, and doesn’t, prohibit him from being a part-owner, or working at an agency. The union declined comment to Yahoo Sports.

In the cutthroat agent world, Dawkins’ re-emergence has raised the attention of other agents.

“That shouldn’t happen,” said Keith Glass, who has spent 34 years as a registered NBA agent. “Do we need a rule for that? Apparently we do. We need a rule for everything. And we’re not going to get it.”

Jungreis, however, defended Dawkins. The two previously worked together at ASM Sports, a major agency at the time run by former agent Andy Miller. Jungreis reiterated that Dawkins’ crimes were against the NCAA system, not any players. He said he didn’t hesitate to work with him again.

“I know who Christian is as a person,” Jungreis, 31, said. “He made some drastic mistakes but he was a young guy who didn’t have proper guidance and got carried away. He’s a genius when it comes to the [business] space. Players certainly continue to respect him.”

Pitino, now the coach of Iona College, told Yahoo Sports he’s not bothered by Dawkins’ return to the basketball space, as he blames the actions of his former assistant coaches at Louisville more than Dawkins. “There are so many people out there that do these types of things that Christian Dawkins does,” Pitino said. “On the circuit, he’s not a lone wolf.”

Dawkins grew up in Saginaw, Michigan, the son of a legendary local high school coach, Lou Dawkins, who had numerous star players, including Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.

Christian Dawkins stands outside federal court Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in New York. Dawkins and and youth basketball coach Merl Code were convicted on a conspiracy count, but acquitted of some other charges. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Christian Dawkins stands outside federal court Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in New York. Dawkins and and youth basketball coach Merl Code were convicted on a conspiracy count, but acquitted of some other charges. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

It led Dawkins, despite being barely out of high school, to a job at ASM Sports where he used his connections with the grassroots basketball world to serve as a recruiter and relationships facilitator.

That ended in May of 2017 after the NBPA found he spent $42,000 in unauthorized Uber charges on the credit card of current NBA guard Elfrid Payton. Miller publicly announced he fired Dawkins, but his relationships with ASM clients like Justin Patton, VanVleet and Beasley were so strong that he remained a presence around the players after his firing.

Dawkins acknowledges that he made mistakes at ASM and later acted recklessly and cut corners in an effort to quickly build up his own marketing agency that went defunct upon his September 2017 arrest.

“‘I’ve learned to slow down,” Dawkins said. “Be patient. This will not happen overnight. This will take time. Also that the rules are the rules whether I agree with them or not. There’s always a way to figure things out.”

While Dawkins said in the past he wouldn’t work in basketball again, his connections, credibility and people skills drew him back.

“Basketball is probably the industry I have the most experience in, and after I was doing well in music and entertainment, it made sense to transition back into sports,” Dawkins said.

The trials, and the subsequent HBO documentary “The Scheme” released in March of 2020 also made him a household name in grassroots basketball.

“The Scheme” casts him as an anti-hero who never flipped for the feds and battled against the NCAA. In a climate where “amateurism” has become increasingly unpopular, especially among players, his return to the basketball world carries great potential.

It also does not come without controversy, which Jungreis brushes off as part of the competitive world of agents.

“In this business, you are always going to have some enemies,” Jungreis said.

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