Curtis Malone, the co-founder and president of the Washington, D.C.-based D.C. Assault AAU basketball club, was arrested on drug charges Monday. He stands accused of possessing a half-kilo of cocaine, 100 grams of heroin and undisclosed heroin-dealing items, according to the Washington City Paper.
The news broke Monday afternoon, sending a wave of shock and disappointment throughout the college basketball recruiting sphere. Disbelief would be a strong word, considering Malone's past history with drugs and more recent history of allegedly violent behavior.
Regardless, Malone is a giant in the recruiting world. His DC Assault program has produced scores of professionals from Keith Bogans to Michael Beasley, James White to Nolan Smith (his stepson), Dante Cunningham to Jeff Green. Washington, D.C. has become one of the most prominent hotbeds for basketball talent, and Malone has been at the center of it for two decades since starting DC Assault in 1993.
Malone's off-the-court indiscretions aside, he doesn't have a reputation as the most honest and forthcoming recruiting kingmaker, either. He's been sued by Beasley, along with current Maryland assistant coach Dalonte Hill, a former DCA player and coach who many in the area cite as the lone reason Beasley attended Kansas State; Hill had just started working as an assistant in Manhattan when Beasley committed to KSU.
Furthermore, Malone consistently has directed his players' careers with the ultimate endgame of college success and NBA riches in mind. The merits of that can be debated, but Duke's Quinn Cook, who won the Washington Post's All-Met Player of the Year award in 2010 as a junior at national powerhouse high school DeMatha, transferred to prep basketball factory Oak Hill several hours away as a senior.
The very next year, current North Carolina point guard Nate Britt, a standout at D.C.'s vaunted Gonzaga College High School, pulled the same move, transferring to Oak Hill as a senior. Britt also starred for DC Assault.
These facts aren't meant to indict Malone's character or his tenure as DC Assault's boss. Rather, they serve to reflect the influence he wields over those in his Under Armour-affiliated program. Depending on the outcome of the charges against Malone, the lack of his presence in the AAU program could have serious recruiting implications, as well as human impact.
First, the human side: Malone consistently has been a father figure to many of his players, as are many AAU and high school coaches. While D.C. is unique as a metropolitan area in that many of its basketball stars come from affluent homes, there are still large groups of impoverished athletes who receive basketball scholarships from private schools in the area and little else.
Malone has a reputation for providing his athletes and their families with money, shelter and clothing while they are in his program and, sometimes, after they leave. Recruiting violations be damned, the man has helped kids in a very real and tangible way, and for the foreseeable future, that support system looks to have vanished.
Now, the recruiting impact. DC Assault's most high-profile recruit still in its system -- Britt graduated this year, as did Villanova recruit Kris Jenkins -- is Romelo Trimble, a rising senior committed to Maryland and perhaps more significantly, Dalonte Hill. There is no indication that he or any other DCA recruits are wavering in their commitments, but Malone's notoriously bristly relationship with college coaches that have spurned him in the past is no secret.
The DEA built its case against Malone over the course of a year with wiretaps and informant testimony. Malone won't escape from the charges quickly, and even if he is proven innocent, will likely never be able to repair his reputation fully. While parents of AAU players are infamously apathetic as to the character of the AAU coaches to whom they push their children, college programs are far more likely to steer clear of characters like Malone in the modern era of recruiting enforcement.
Malone the D.C.-region basketball power broker is no more. Who is left to pick up the pieces will have a massive impact on college hoops recruiting in the years to come.