A "person with direct knowledge of the college basketball bribery case" told Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times that Foothills Christian High player and former USC commit Taeshon Cherry is "the USC recruit identified as Player-8 in the federal criminal complaint against Trojans associate head coach Tony Bland."
However, Cherry's mother Danielle denied the claim.
"It's not true," she said. "My son is not Player-8."
Cherry, a 5-star small forward who is considered the No. 27 player in 247Sports' Composite Rankings for the Class of 2018, decommitted from USC last week. He joined 4-star power forward J’Raan Brooks in decommitting in the wake of the FBI's investigation into Bland, weakening what was once one of the top recruiting classes in the country.
Cherry's grandfather, Paul Phipps, attributed USC's lack of communication in the past month for his grandson's decision to withdraw his commitment, per Fenno:
"I just feel like USC decided that anybody associated with Bland is probably someone they didn’t want to be associated with. My grandson is a great kid. He certainly has not done anything that in any way would jeopardize his eligibility in any way to be at USC. The fact they have really backed away from him is disappointing. It’s like the hangover from Reggie Bush has left USC so risk-intolerant. I get it. I’m a big USC guy. But come on."
In November, Bland pleaded not guilty to bribery charges. He was accused of receiving a $13,000 bribe from prospective manager Christian Dawkins and financial advisor Munish Sood for "directing USC players to use their services when they joined the NBA," according to Nina Agrawal of the Los Angeles Times. He also allegedly facilitated "payments of $4,000 and $5,000 to associates of two USC players, a recruit and a sophomore, in late August."
That recruit was listed as "Player-8" in the federal complaint brought against Bland.
"Based on my discussion with [the undercover agent], I know that once outside the restaurant, while walking toward their cars, [the undercover agent] handed Dawkins the envelope containing $4,000 and Dawkins then walked off with Player-8’s relative," the complaint noted of a meeting between Dawkins, Sood and Player-8's relative in late August.
The complaint also said $5,000 was paid to David Elliott, a close family friend of USC sophomore guard De’Anthony Melton, who has since been deemed ineligible by the school.