HUNTSVILLE | University of Alabama men’s basketball coach Avery Johnson said Tuesday that it was “not my place to comment” on an FBI investigation that has targeted potential bribery and wire fraud at several NCAA basketball programs.
Alabama was not among the programs mentioned by the FBI. A total of 10 arrests were announced — including the arrest of Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person — and Joon Kim, U.S. Attorney Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that the investigation was continuing.
“I have been traveling all day,” Johnson said following a promotional event at the Huntsville International Airport. “The reports I have seen are pretty interesting but it’s not my place to make a comment on it. Any bad news is bad for college basketball, but in that situation, we need to let the process take its course.”
Asked if he had any knowledge of schools involved in the alleged illegalities, Johnson added that “with me coaching in college now, you hear things. But I can’t comment
Johnson was in Huntsville to promote Alabama’s Dec. 19 game against Mercer at the Von Braun Civic Center, a part of the annual Rocket City Classic. Alabama played Arkansas State in a sold-out game in the Classic last year.
“They wanted us back,” Johnson said. The arena was sold out last year, people were outside wanting to get in. So it feels really good to come back, especially with a player (freshman John Petty) from Huntsville. It’s great to have a Huntsville player and I can’t mention any names but we hope to get some more in the future.”
Two Huntsville-area juniors, guards Kira Lewis of Hazel Green and Kobe Brown of Lee-Huntsville, are rated as Top 100 national recruits in the Class of 2019.
Johnson noted that Alabama would open practice for the 2017-18 season on Friday.
“It’s about our returning players first,” Johnson said. “But when you add our incoming guys, we have the makings of having a good team, not just late in the year, but quickly. From our first practice on Friday, we will have a high level of accountability. Everybody we play is going to be shooting for us. Our name is starting to show up in some top 25 rankings. We have a Top 10 national schedule and that is by design. So we have to be ready. We are a lot faster, if not as tall on front line as last year. We can play with a lot of creativity. We don’t have all linebackers this year, we have some cornerbacks and safeties.”
Johnson said that sophomore guard Dazon Ingram, who did not participate in Alabama’s three August exhibition games in August because of a foot injury, had been cleared for full participation in practice.
“Dazon is doing great, he is 100 percent,” Johnson said. “He is moving as well as he has ever moved and continues to surprise us with how well he is shooting the ball (in individual drills.)”
Johnson was also asked about his position on the recent discussion about player protests during the pre-game playing of the national anthem, a topic that was reignited by comments that President Donald Trump made at a campaign rally in Huntsville last Friday.
“My position has always been about love, equality, inclusion and respecting the rights of people to express their opinion,” Johnson said. “This issue came up last year and our response is the same as it was then: we stand for the national anthem. But we will have an in-depth conversation with our players as well.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.