Gamecocks coach Frank Martin speaks about Lamont Evans and the FBI investigation that rocked college basketball
COLUMBIA — Frank Martin didn’t hide behind a prepared statement or say “no comment.”
He’s tremendously disappointed that one of his guys, a man he’s known since high school, was swept up in the FBI probe that rocked college basketball last week. But Martin made it clear that whatever issues Lamont Evans is facing are Lamont Evans’ problems, not Martin’s or South Carolina’s.
“Unless there’s something there that I don’t know, this university’s not being investigated,” Martin said in his first public comments since the scandal broke. “Lamont Evans is being investigated. Frank Martin is not being investigated. Our basketball program is not being investigated.”
USC athletics director Ray Tanner released a statement last week that said the school is not being further examined by the FBI in a revelation that uncovered payments from agents to assistant coaches, who took bribes to ensure that certain players would sign with those agents. Evans, who was a student assistant, graduate manager and assistant coach at Kansas State under Martin, served four years as a USC assistant before leaving for Oklahoma State in April 2016.
Evans was credited for recruiting Sindarius Thornwell and P.J. Dozier, the two stars of the Gamecocks’ greatest season last year. Thornwell graduated and was signed by the Los Angeles Clippers, while Dozier declared for the NBA as a sophomore and was picked up by the Dallas Mavericks.
Evans was one of the four assistant coaches arrested for allegedly taking money from agents and an undercover FBI agent. While most of the illicit activities allegedly happened at Oklahoma State, agents first contacted Evans when he was in Columbia.
An unnamed player at USC is mentioned in the affidavit regarding Evans. Martin doesn’t know who that player is.
“We haven’t been told. If we were being investigated, I’d have that answer for you,” he said. “But we don’t have that answer. Since we’re not part of it, we’re not privy to that information.”
Martin said he hasn’t spoken with Evans since he was arrested. Evans was fired from Oklahoma State shortly after he was bonded out of jail.
“I’m not ready for that day with Lamont right now,” Martin said. “When this passes, I’m sure he and I will sit down and figure out what happened.”
Martin wasn’t happy that he and two other former assistants — Brad Underwood, a K-State and USC assistant who was head coach at Oklahoma State last year before being hired at Illinois; and former Gamecock player and assistant coach Mike Boynton, who was promoted to head coach at OSU after Underwood left — have been tied to this situation. Martin knows there are problems in basketball recruiting, but he has always run his program without a hint of violations.
“That’s why I was surprised when I saw Lamont’s name, because I do pay attention. Because doing things right is so important to me,” Martin said, taking responsibility when five of his USC players were involved with property damage from BB guns at the end of the 2015-16 season. “That was on me. I didn’t pay enough attention to that situation that happened.”
But he said he had no knowledge of Evans’ actions, and the FBI is not looking at USC.
“Because of the sensitivity of ongoing FBI investigations, I hope you understand that there’s some things I’m not going to get into right now. When the time comes, I’ll be more than happy to express whatever you want to ask me,” he said. “I can wholeheartedly tell you that we are not part, in any way, shape or form, of this FBI investigation. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Lamont.
“I’d rather lose working the right way than win taking any type of shortcut.”