Bob Lutz: Kansas State needs to answer tough questions about Samuels

03/21/2012 8:48 AM

03/21/2012 8:48 AM

Kansas State’s basketball season is over now. Jamar Samuels has played his final game as a Wildcat, a final game that ended up being one game too early. And life goes on.

But there’s something wrong here, something yet to be explained about K-State’s decision to hold Samuels out of Saturday’s third-round NCAA Tournament game against Syracuse, a game the short-handed Wildcats lost.

If Kansas State athletic director John Currie is all about transparency, as he claimed to be after replacing the sneaky Bob Krause nearly three years ago, then why isn’t he being more forthcoming about the details of this issue?

I want to know. Don’t you want to know?

I want to know why, as has been reported, Samuels called his former AAU coach the week of the start of the NCAA Tournament and requested $200. I want to know why the AAU coach, Curtis Malone, sent Samuels the money and I want to know whether he’s done it before. Malone claims he hasn’t, wanting us to believe this is the first time in Samuels’ five years at K- State this has happened.

I want to know why, just a day before K-State was set to leave for Pittsburgh and NCAA second-round play, this transaction happened. When Samuels and other players are on road trips with their teams, they’re treated like kings. They stay in the best hotels, especially during the NCAA Tournament, and eat the finest food.

Malone claims Samuels told him he needed the money for food because “he was hungry.”

I want to know how K-State officials found out about this infraction. Was it something they stumbled onto? Was it something their compliance office dug into? Has K-State, which like many schools has recruited heavily in AAU hotbeds, been keeping tabs on Malone and other AAU coaches?

My initial reaction after hearing about this Saturday was pity for Samuels, who from what I can tell is a good guy and, of course, an important player for K-State, the only scholarship senior on this season’s squad. By most accounts, Samuels comes from a deprived background and at first glance I didn’t have much of a problem with a former coach who wanted to help out with $200.

But after more consideration, my mind started to change. The NCAA has rules against student-athletes accepting money or gifts from people — non-family members or those considered close friends. Malone doesn’t fit the bill on either account, although it’s fair to question how his role as a mentor and former coach is different from that of a “friend.”

To get bogged down in the wording, though, is to lose sight of the issue.

And for me, it’s simple: What does K-State know about this and when did it gain that information?

Is the NCAA snooping around for more information now that this $200 wire transfer has been made public? Remember, just last October, former K-State player Michael Beasley accused a former agent and Malone, also his AAU coach in Washington, D.C., of conspiring to forge a relationship with him from the age of 14 and giving his mother improper cash benefits while Beasley played at K-State.

Malone took Beasley into his home for five years, Beasley’s lawsuit claims. There has been no word on that lawsuit’s standing in months.

Clearly, Malone’s name is familiar to K-State.

I’m not judging Malone here. I don’t know the man and he might be, like he said Saturday, just trying to look out for the best interests of players he has coached.

Malone hasn’t talked on this matter since. Neither has Samuels, Currie or K-State coach Frank Martin, who nearly broke down after Saturday’s loss to Syracuse when addressing the matter.

It’s unacceptable to get to the final game of the season, in the most important game of the season, and not be at full strength. Does K-State beat Syracuse, which was playing without 7-foot center Fab Melo, with Samuels on the floor? Not necessarily, but no one can argue that the Wildcats’ chances wouldn’t have been significantly better.

As it was, K-State played hard and effectively for most of the game before wearing down.

I want to know the reasons Samuels wasn’t in there. And, remember, K-State didn’t even come forth with the news about the $200 wire transfer; only news of “an eligibility concern.”

Essentially, K-State has volunteered nothing about how this came about. There are enough head scratchers here to fill a news conference. Maybe the K-State administration believes the weight of the ongoing NCAA Tournament will deflect everyone’s attention from the Samuels matter.

Let’s hope not. Let’s hope all or most of these questions get answered. The K-State fans who care about this — and I think that includes most — want an accounting.

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