Las Vegas Sun

April 17, 2014

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I was just trying to make an easy buck’

When former Arizona State basketball player Isaac Burton accepted $4,300 to help shave points during two games in 1994, all he could think of was what the money could buy.

He spent the bankroll on clothes, jewelry, a cell phone and car accessories -- all the things he couldn't afford as a student-athlete.

What Burton never thought of was everything else the money was going to buy him -- two months in jail, six months of home detention and community service.

The 26-year-old who is hoping to catch on with the Las Vegas Silver Bandits of the International Basketball League was sentenced in June for conspiracy to commit sports bribery.

On Wednesday afternoon, in an exclusive interview at the Doolittle Community Center before Burton scored 17 points to lead the Silver Bandits to a 111-106 exhibition victory over the visiting New Mexico Slam, he finally spoke about the incident that has altered his life.

His first mistake was being naive. His second, he said, was trusting teammate Stevin "Hedake" Smith.

During Burton's first season at ASU after transferring from East Los Angeles Junior College, Burton said he was approached by Smith, who asked him to miss a few free throws if needed in two games in exchange for the money.

The plan sounded easy enough, so Burton agreed.

"This is a guy that I looked up to," Burton said of Smith. "He took me around on my recruiting trip.

"And this is a guy that always came around with me and took me out so I figured, 'Why not?' He told me I wouldn't get in trouble."

Smith never told Burton of the possible consequences and Burton, 21 at the time, never asked.

"It was quick money," Burton said. "Easy money.

"I never really had a lot of money in my pocket at once. Coming from LA, (I was) just a child from the streets. I think the most I ever had before I went to college was maybe $100.

"So I was just trying to make an easy buck. I didn't really put no thought behind it -- like consequences. I just thought, 'Hey, I want the money. I want the money.' And that's what I'm paying for."

Smith will start paying on Dec. 13 when he surrenders to federal authorities to serve a year and a day in federal prison.

The scandal started in 1993 when Smith met ASU student Benny Silman, a known bookmaker.

Smith had placed bets with Silman on professional hockey and football. When when Smith racked up a debt of $10,000 that he couldn't pay, he agreed to fix four games for Silman.

Silman, the mastermind behind the scheme, offered Smith $20,000 for each game he fixed.

That's where Burton entered the equation.

Smith figured he could not throw a game alone, so he asked his teammate for help.

"I was asked to miss free throws in the end (of the game) if I needed to," Burton said. "It never came up so it was like, I was just getting free money.

"I never did anything. But the only thing is, I accepted the money. I did not think for one minute anything would happen because I didn't know what I was doing.

"I had to ask Hedake what was point shaving and he was like 'Don't worry, nothing is going to happen.' "

Wrong.

The betting on ASU's games against Washington State and Washington was so heavy that it forced local casinos to make multiple line adjustments and alerted them to a potential problem.

Bookmakers alerted the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which launched its own investigation before notifying authorities.

But from the time Burton left ASU, he never gave the incident a second thought.

After averaging 14 points, 2.1 assists and three rebounds and earning All-Pac 10 honorable mention honors his senior year, Burton spent a season in the little-known IBA before heading to Australia in 1997 to play for the Sydney Kings.

Meanwhile, FBI agents were busy investigating the two former Sun Devils.

One day, when Burton was asleep, his world was turned upside down.

"I was in Australia then the phone rang, I woke up to answer," Burton recalled. "They said 'We're FBI agents, we'll be there to talk to you.'

"My reaction was, 'Damn.' You know, like what? I never thought it would come up again. Never."

Burton grew up in a rough neighborhood in Los Angeles but never thought he'd go to jail.

The Silver Bandits must cut four people from their roster and it is very likely Burton won't be one of them.

If he is cut, however, he says he will serve his time immediately. If he sticks with the team, he will serve his time after the season is over.

"It wasn't worth it at all," Burton said. "I regret doing everything.

"Never been there (jail). I told myself I would never end up in jail.

"Never say never, because you never know how you're going to get there. But I'm glad to say I never killed nobody, never sold drugs. It doesn't matter though. When you're in jail, you're in jail."

For now, Burton is content to be in Las Vegas, even though this is the place where his troubles began.

"I love playing basketball," he said. "I'm not the type of guy who wants to go out there and get a 9 to 5 (job).

"You know, this is easy money right here, playing basketball, and it's something I love doing. It is ironic, but I don't care if it was Las Vegas, New Jersey or whatever."

He says he has learned a harsh lesson.

"I didn't know the severity behind it then. I didn't know nothing about gambling.

"I don't even gamble now."

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