What's sure to be a difficult transition to the pros could be all the more challenging as a result of Tyson's tumultuous senior season. In November students and teachers chased away a TV news crew that showed up at Dominguez looking for comment about the Otis affair. Compton is so firmly behind Otis that the prosecution considered asking for a change of venue. "The last few years, the city has completely embraced the team," Carr says. "You've read the Compton Bulletin and seen almost nothing about the case. The community wishes it would go away."
He is asked a question and repeats it. "Who's closest to Tyson? I knew the answer six months ago. But it's changing as we speak. So many potential players are coming out of the woodwork. There's immense b.s. out there, all self-serving. The situation with Russell makes it more difficult, because Russell was deflecting people away."
That Tyson chandler won't go to college is a foregone conclusion among those around him. As of last week he still hadn't taken his college entrance exam, and college recruiters are virtually absent from his life. "We're not wasting our time," says an assistant coach at one school that would normally be in the hunt. So speculation has shifted from which college will sign Tyson to which agent will sign him. Will it be Andre Colona? Bill Duffy? Dan Fagen? George McQuarn?
One agent agrees to speak about Tyson, but only anonymously. He mentions the NBA player Tyson says he looks up to, the one who's supposed to provide a model for both his style of play and the arc of his career. "Tyson's like Kevin Garnett," he says. "If Kevin hadn't grown up in South Carolina—if he'd grown up in Chicago from Day One—he'd be screwed up. Tyson's lucky. His grandparents were farmers, so he has country values in his family. The negative is that he's been exposed to a lot of s- - - since he got [to the Los Angeles area]."
It's easy to see how Tyson might have sometimes felt that he was being used. A Fountain Valley, Calif., fitness trainer named Mike Rangel provides an example. Rangel has worked with several of Pat Barrett's top players, and he runs a youth all-star game, the Roundball Extravaganza, over which he admits he and Barrett had a falling out last June after Barrett failed to deliver some of his players to the game. Rangel says Barrett approached him in the summer of 1999, worried that he didn't have enough money to carry his teams through that AAU season. Although tax records show that between '95 and '99 the declared receipts for Barrett's program more than doubled, from $168,415 to $373,500, Rangel says Barrett asked him for help in raising $40,000. Rangel wasn't interested in donating. But, he says, Barrett told him, "Let's take this approach. Let's get an attorney or a sports agent to give us [a] loan. We'll tell him that I'll help direct Tyson and other kids to him when they turn pro."
Rangel says that a friend of his helped arrange for Barrett to meet with an Irvine, Calif., lawyer and aspiring agent named Leonard Shulman. Shulman doesn't dispute that his law firm, Marshack, Shulman and Hodges, donated thousands of dollars to the Southern California All-Stars, even helping to throw a fund-raising dinner and auction at the Anaheim Hilton last March on behalf of Barrett's nonprofit. But Shulman says that his fledgling sports agency, Spectrum Sports Group, gave nothing, and that Barrett's steering players to him "would never have been discussed.... There was no quid pro quo or anything like that."
Sources say, however, that Barrett brought Tyson by Shulman's offices (the same building houses his law firm and Spectrum Sports) in late summer of 1999. Shulman says his law firm's logs show no record of such a visit, but he acknowledges that he developed enough of a relationship with Tyson's family that he visited the house in Buena Park and brought with him his partner in Spectrum Sports, a Toronto-based lawyer named Daniel Lawson. "We were assisting the family with a legal matter...unrelated to sports," says Shulman, who cites attorney-client privilege in refusing to discuss the particulars of that meeting.
Last summer, according to Shulman, his firm dropped its support of Barrett's program. "I think we preferred there to be more controls, more accounting of how things were being spent," says Shulman. "Not that we are insinuating that there was anything improper.... We were concerned that the money was not going to the truly needy, although we have no evidence that it wasn't."
What motivates stakeholders and would-be stakeholders as they vie for Tyson's ear? The usual. For those who attach themselves to young talent early and securely enough, the payoffs can be huge. When Tracy McGrady signed a $12.3 million endorsement deal with Adidas in 1997, he made sure that his high school coach and the Adidas scout who discovered him each received a total of $900,000 over six years. Says the agent who compares Chandler to Garnett, "I think Tyson will give something to Pat."