NC State: Wilmington sports agent implicated star player in pay-for-play probe

NC State: Wilmington sports agent implicated star player in pay-for-play probe
Dennis Smith Jr.

RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - Wilmington sports agent Gary Shipman first implicated former star NC State basketball player Dennis Smith Jr. in what has become a federal pay-for-play college basketball probe, according to information released Tuesday by the university.

NC State, one of the schools under scrutiny by the NCAA and a subject of a federal investigation, released a timeline of its role in the inquiry on its website on Tuesday.

One item in the timeline shows a "Wilmington registered sports agent" spoke with the General Counsel for NC State in October last year, telling her he believed a star recruit, Dennis Smith Jr., had enrolled at the university due to "influence by Adidas through his father, Dennis Smith Sr," the timeline states.

According to a federal indictment released last week, an unidentified NCSU basketball coach is alleged to have received $40,000 from an unspecified company to deliver to the father of a Wolfpack basketball recruit. Neither Smith Jr. nor Smith Sr. are named in the document. However, a description of the unnamed student-athlete – a top high school recruit who played for the Wolfpack for the 2016-17 season before entering the NBA draft – points toward Smith Jr.

When reached by phone Tuesday, Shipman confirmed he was the agent who contacted NC State about Smith Jr.

"I believed that under the proposed changes to the agents' rules that if I had information that led me to believe that there could be improper benefits having been paid to a student-athlete, that I should notify the institution," Shipman said.

Shipman has represented athletes for the last five years as a registered sports agent in North Carolina. The Wilmington attorney is also a candidate in the Democratic primary for the 20th District seat in the NC House.

Shipman said he learned some information indirectly and felt it was his obligation to report it. He declined to reveal the source of his information.

"I had no direct, first-hand knowledge but I was told to participate at that level that I would have to pay people and I was not going to do that," Shipman said.

During a face-to-face interview with university officials, Shipman said he had no direct knowledge of any payments and declined to provide any details or names of those who might be involved. He also did not have any information that Smith Jr. was involved, the timeline states, and did not respond to a letter sent certified mail that outlined the details of the interview with university officials.

"Did I personally witness it? No," Shipman said. "I wanted (NC State) to get out in front of it."

Shipman said he was surprised to receive the letter after university officials came to Wilmington to speak with him. While not mentioned by name in the university release Tuesday, Shipman's presence was noted several times in the university's timeline of its role in the investigation:

On October 19, 2017, NC State's General Counsel spoke with a Wilmington registered sports agent who stated he believed Dennis Smith, Jr. attended NC State due to influence by Adidas through Dennis Smith, Sr. The agent did not provide specifics about any other individuals involved. General Counsel informed the agent she would both report the information and further investigate. General Counsel directed Athletics Compliance staff to conduct an in-person interview with the sports agent.

Copyright 2018 WECT. All rights reserved.