Lance Thomas spoke to the media for the first time since news of his lawsuit broke Monday when the New Orleans Hornets opened training camp. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
NBA training camps opened today, and 19 former Blue Devils went back to work. Among them was Lance Thomas, who has had a quite busy offseason. To review:
Sept. 7 - The Associated Press reveals that Manhattan-based jeweler Rafaello & Co. is suing Thomas for defaulting on a $67,800 payment. Thomas purchased nearly $100,000 worth of jewelry on Dec. 21, 2009, while the team was on winter break during his senior year.
This opened a dialog between Duke and the NCAA in order to determine if Thomas received any extra benefits, which would retroactively make him ineligible and put Duke's 2010 national championship in jeopardy. Both compliance experts I spoke with said that. from Duke's perspective, there was definite cause for concern.
Sept. 18 - Thomas and Rafaello & Co settle the lawsuit out of court. The terms are confidential. Also on the same day, it came to light that Thomas had failed to pay rent late in his senior year, and his landlord filed a court complaint. The case was dropped when both parties failed to appear at the scheduled court apearance.
Even before the settlement, the NCAA faced a few significant hurdles in a potential investigation, including a four-year statute of limitations and lack of subpoena power. The jeweler declined to speak with the NCAA. Thomas does not have to—but it appears he will.
"I'm still working on that, but I'll eventually speak to them," Thomas told the Associated Press Monday.
When asked if he thought he violated any NCAA rules with his purchase, Thomas said he "didn't think so." He also told Steve Wiseman of the Durham Herald-Sun that he has not spoken with any Duke officials about the lawsuit and expressed regret about the trouble this has caused the university.
"I do feel bad that was something that was just lingering around the university," Thomas said to the Associated Press. "But everything's going to get taken care of the right way and I hope the coaching staff and the whole university knows that those were the best four years of my life."
NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn did not respond to an after hours request for comment. Thomas did not answer a phone call seeking comment.
Naturally, many of the initial questions remain: how did Thomas get $30,000 for a down payment and did he receive an extra benefit when he was extended a $67,800, 15-day loan? Thomas said he will share more once a few legal details are settled. The NCAA, Duke and the general public will be waiting.