Western Kentucky University announced its new assistant men’s basketball coach on Tuesday afternoon: Hennssy Auriantal, a controversial international recruiter who happens to be the legal guardian to WKU’s highest-profile recruit, Charles Bassey.
“We’re happy to have Hennssy join our program,” coach Rick Stansbury said in a press release issued late Tuesday. “He brings coaching and playing experience at the D-I level in all areas. Besides that, he’s a terrific person and has a beautiful family.”
The press release didn’t mention Bassey, whose surprise reclassification into the class of 2018 and enrollment at WKU last month rocked the college basketball world. It also didn’t mention Auriantal’s time as the vice president of international affairs at Louisville’s Aspire Academy, or his stint at St. Anthony Catholic High School, where the San Antonio Express-News reported Auriantal was let go after possible recruiting violations.
Auriantal gained custody of Bassey against the wishes of the young man’s father in Nigeria, according to court documents obtained by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. The international recruiter has brought more than 45 young men to the United States to play high school basketball in just the last five years alone.
Three, including Bassey, have ended up at Western Kentucky. Junior Lomomba, a Canadian, played the 2016-2017 season as a post-graduate senior. Local media outlets have described Auriantal as his uncle.
Moustapha Diagne, a Senegalese player, sat out half a season while the NCAA investigated whether his relationship with Auriantal violated amateurism rules. He was eventually cleared. According to the Bowling Green Daily News, Auriantal is Diagne’s legal guardian as well.
Questions remain about whether Bassey will be eligible to play at WKU this year. Aspire Academy President Roger McClendon told KyCIR that he didn’t think Bassey had a diploma from DeSales, where he was enrolled as a junior as recently as May.
WKU said Bassey has graduated from high school in the press release announcing his recruitment. His former coach, Jeremy Kipness, echoed that in an interview with Courier Journal. WKU did not answer follow-up questions about where he had graduated from.
The NCAA has strict rules to prevent teams from offering a parent or high school coach — what the NCAA calls “an individual associated with a prospect” — an athletics job in an effort to recruit top players. If the team wants to hire them, it has to offer one of a few coveted top jobs.
In men’s basketball, that is limited to coaching positions. Auriantal will be one of three assistant coaches for the Hilltoppers.
In the eyes of the NCAA, an “individual associated with a prospect” is a parent, legal guardian, handler, personal trainer or coach. Over the years, Auriantal has used all those different titles to describe his relationship to Bassey.
He has given his young superstar a title, too. He calls Bassey “The Big Ticket.”
Eleanor Klibanoff can be reached at email@example.com or (502) 814.6544.