Jeweler suing former Duke basketball player Lance Thomas won't talk to NCAA
Lance Thomas #42 of the Duke Blue Devils looks to pass the ball in the second half against the Butler Bulldogs during the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Duke won 61-59. / Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
(CBS/AP) DALLAS - The New York jeweler suing former Duke basketball player Lance Thomas isn't interested in speaking to the NCAA.
Mike Bowers, an attorney for the firm, said an NCAA official contacted him Monday to see whether someone from Rafaello & Co. would agree to be interviewed about the firm's lawsuit asserting that Thomas purchased nearly $100,000 in jewelry while playing for Duke's 2010 national championship team.
Bowers said the company, which caters to professional athletes and other celebrities, declined because of the pending litigation.
"My client has no interest in going beyond the merchandise Mr. Thomas took and didn't pay for," the Dallas attorney said Wednesday.
The lawsuit indicates that Thomas purchased five pieces of diamond jewelry at a cost of $97,800 by putting $30,000 down and receiving $67,800 in credit. The balance remains unpaid even though it was due in 15 days, according to documents included in the court filing.
The date on the invoice is Dec. 21, 2009, the middle of the 2009-2010 season. Thomas, then a senior, started 39 games at forward for Duke that season, including the Blue Devils' 61-59 victory over Butler in the NCAA tournament championship game.
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The suit was filed in Austin in January, but it wasn't publicly disclosed until it was detailed in an Associated Press story last Friday. It was filed in Texas because Thomas, now with the New Orleans Hornets, was playing for the Austin Toros of the NBA Developmental League at the time.
NCAA rules prohibit athletes from receiving benefits that aren't available to the student body as a whole. If a violation of that kind is found, a school could be forced to give up a championship in which the athlete competed.
NCAA rules require student-athletes and personnel at member schools to cooperate with the organization's inquiries, but there's nothing to compel people who aren't affiliated with those schools to do so.
Both Duke and the NCAA have acknowledged that they are aware of the lawsuit and looking into it. The NCAA did not immediately respond to a request from the AP for comment on the jeweler's stance.
As CBSSports.com's Matt Norlander notes, there is a four-year opportunity of investigation at play here. Afterward, the statute of limitations goes into effect. Since Thomas' nearly $100,000 jewelry purchase in Manhattan on Dec. 21, 2009, the NCAA has approximately 15 months left to determine if it has enough information to send that letter to Durham.
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