The Making of Billy Preston To unravel how a top college recruit’s NBA dreams ran into a sprawling federal investigation, reporter Paula Lavigne explores his early years. Billy Preston and his mom struggle to get by in L.A. An active kid, Billy finds basketball through his mom’s partner, a high school coach and former professional player. Billy’s star rises in youth leagues. He generates buzz as an NBA prospect. Top colleges vie for his talents, and his family pulls out all the stops to support his goals.
Nichole and the Bag Man Billy’s mom Nichole and her partner T.K. move around the country so Billy can play for elite high school teams. To remain eligible for college, Billy and his family can’t accept any money. But players in “The Bag Game” offer to circumvent those rules. Billy gets his top college pick, while Nichole makes a connection that could secure the family’s finances. But Billy’s dream is short-lived. And Nichole’s dealings get attention from federal investigators.
The Sting Colleges can’t lure high school players with cash. That’s against NCAA rules. But Paula shows how private, elite youth basketball teams can provide a work-around. They become a point of contact not just for colleges, but sneaker companies, would-be agents, financial advisors and others. Meet a Florida youth coach who courted funding for his team from major athletic wear companies. He made big promises in return. But he didn’t know he was being recorded by undercover agents. “The Bag Game” game unravels, as the feds’ secret investigation – the one that led Kansas to bench Billy – comes to light.
Plausible Deniability Federal prosecutors make their case public. They tell the college sports world, “We have your playbook.” Details come out on secret payments. Who made them and who knew? Who received the money and to whose benefit? Who was the victim of pay-to-play and what, exactly, was the crime? After a stint playing overseas, Billy returns for the NBA draft. His name and the Kansas program have been swept into the case. Sentences come down for defendants. Billy and Nichole experience the fallout. Paula weighs the impact of all this on players, families and the system as a whole.