Report says Clarett accepted money from LeBron James

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 15, 2003

COLUMBUS - The NCAA has made inquiries about Ohio State star Maurice Clarett that are not related to questions about the football player's academic conduct, athletic director Andy Geiger said.

The Columbus Dispatch, citing sources it did not identify, reported Monday that NCAA investigators have met with Clarett to ask about several gifts, including some that may have come from Cleveland Cavaliers rookie LeBron James.

Playing with the Cavs at the Boston summer league, James was asked whether he had let Clarett drive his sport utility vehicle and whether he had attended an Adidas camp with Clarett. He shook his head ''no'' to both questions Monday night.

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''That's a great friend of mine. Before him being a Heisman candidate, before me being how I am. I knew him when he was at Warren Harding, so he's a great kid,'' James said. ''I talk to him every day. He's in a situation right now that he's going to handle. He's a man.''

James' agent, Aaron Goodwin, said he did not know if James had been contacted by the NCAA.

''If they do (call him), and it goes to my office, they better have a legitimate reason to call him,'' Goodwin said Monday.

''Nothing improper has happened between LeBron and Maurice,'' Goodwin said. ''They're both intelligent kids; LeBron wouldn't do anything to cost him his eligibility.''

NCAA spokesman Jeff Howard, citing association policy, declined comment Monday.

Geiger said at a news conference Sunday that the NCAA's questioning of Clarett had nothing to do with a New York Times report that the running back had received preferential treatment in a class by being allowed to take two oral exams.

''I don't think there's any linkage whatsoever,'' Geiger said.

The inquiry concerns whether someone else could be using James to help establish an agent relationship with Clarett in the future, The Dispatch said. The newspaper reported that Clarett's answers appeared to satisfy the investigators.

Ohio State spokeswoman Amy Murray said the university's investigation was ongoing and the school had no comment. Messages also were left Monday for Paulette Pierce, the professor of the class.

Calls placed by The Associated Press to the home of Clarett's mother in Warren went unanswered Monday.

In a statement released through his attorney, Clarett said he was ''disappointed'' in the story.

''Yes, college has been difficult for me sometimes, like it is for lots of freshmen,'' he said. ''I respect professor Pierce, and I appreciated the assistance she gave me. I do not believe I broke any rules in receiving that assistance.''