On a surface level, the Wednesday allegations by Ibrahim Johnson that his half-brother, Texas Longhorns freshman power forward Mohamed Bamba, had accepted impermissible benefits from his mentor, Michigan-based investor Greer Love, rocked the college basketball world.
If true, the allegations could render Bamba ineligible, cratering the season for the Longhorns and keeping the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, from ever playing college basketball.
But it’s a story that cries for more context.
Who is Greer Love? Who is Ibrahim Johnson?
On Thursday, Love responded to Johnson’s accusations in a brief statement to 247Sports.
“When Mo asked me to guide him and help coordinate the logistics of his recruitment,” Love told 247Sports. “I immediately engaged the former Chief Compliance Officer of two Big 10/Big 12 schools, who provided frequent consultation on a variety of matters. Doing things the right way has been our top priority since Day One. Mo’s got way too much to lose to take any chances on anything even remotely impermissible. With my nine-year, pre-existing relationship on the line with Mo personally, let alone his college eligibility, I took several additional measures to ensure that Mo was fully compliant every step of the way.”
In 2008, Love met Bamba after he founded an after-school program called “Locke’s Lions” at Bamba’s elementary school in Harlem that provided academic and basketball support to underserved students.
Love eventually become a mentor for the young Bamba.
Now fast forward nearly a decade.
It’s no secret that the college basketball world has a surfeit of shady figures hanging around top athletes in the hopes of exploiting them financially after they receive big paydays in the NBA.
In an effort to shield Bamba from precisely those types of people, his family enlisted Love to manage the logistics of Bamba’s recruitment. The story from the Love side is that school compliance departments and the NCAA itself cleared the relationship during the recruiting process, a belief supported by a statement from Texas on Wednesday evening.
"As is usual practice by the NCAA, Mo's amateur status was previously reviewed and final certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center. The NCAA has not informed us of any pending issues or eligibility concerns at this time regarding Mo. If there are further questions, we certainly will cooperate with the NCAA to the fullest."
The NCAA uses four questions to determine whether an individual meets the definition of a booster:
- Did the relationship between the student-athlete (or the athlete’s parents) and the individual providing the benefit(s) develop as a result of the student-athlete’s participation in athletics or notoriety related thereto?
- Did the relationship between the student-athlete (or the athlete’s parents) and the individual providing the benefit(s) predate the athlete’s status as a prospective student-athlete?
- Did the relationship between the student-athlete (or the athlete’s parents) and the individual providing the benefit(s) predate the student-athlete’s status achieved as a result of his athletics ability or reputation?
- Was the pattern of benefits provided by the individual to the student-athlete (or the athlete’s parents) prior to the student-athlete attaining notoriety as a skilled athlete similar in nature to those provided after attaining such stature?
Based on those questions, it would seem that the NCAA did not classify Love as a booster because he’s known Bamba since he was 10 years old. Therefore, even if Johnson is telling the truth, the NCAA has already determined that no violations occurred.
Meanwhile, an unflattering picture of Johnson is emerging.
As 247Sports notes, Johnson is currently facing five separate felony and misdemeanor charges in five different states. Three of those alleged crimes occurred in March, including a hit-and-run charge in Florida and a forgery charge, along with related crimes, in Ohio.
Supposedly removed from the recruiting process in January, Johnson allegedly grew increasingly desperate as his legal issues mounted, threatening physical violence in addition to broadcasting his intent to do exactly what he did on Wednesday.
However, Johnson doesn’t have much credibility because of his recent history of arrests. Furthermore, Love could have provided Bamba with the alleged benefits within NCAA rules because he doesn’t seem to require the governing body’s definition of a booster.
So while there’s still some mild cause for concern, after getting through the initial layer of this story, it doesn’t seem like there is much substance to these accusations.