One of the best-known gambling figures in Las Vegas said yesterday that he was interviewed by the FBI about possible point-shaving by Nevada-Las Vegas players during last year's Final Four.
Lem Banker said he told authorities that players on the Runnin' Rebels, unbeaten and ranked No. 1 at the time, wouldn't have dumped the Duke game in the national semifinals. The Rebels failed to repeat as national champion when the Blue Devils beat them, 79-77, last March.
UNLV officials said two weeks ago that federal authorities had subpoenaed university records relating to convicted sports fixer Richard Perry. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Thursday that authorities involved in the Perry probe were checking rumors that some UNLV players may have shaved points last year.
Banker, who makes his living betting sports events, is a nationally recognized authority in the industry.
"I told the FBI there is no way they would dump a championship game," Banker said.
"I told them there was nothing to it. They were undefeated. Whoever's starting these rumors is just pouring more salt in the wounds."
Banker said yesterday the Rebels failed to make the point spread set by bookmakers around the country in 18 of 35 games in the 1990-91 season.
Banker said FBI agents asked him specifically about the Duke game, in which the Rebels started as 9 1/2 -point favorites.
Banker said the spread dropped to six points because of a heavy influx of money on Duke.
"The bookmakers bet the game much too high," Banker said. "And the players [bettors] bet it down to six points.
Meanwhile, J. R. Rider, UNLV's leading scorer, pleaded innocent yesterday to misdemeanor charges of obstructing a Las Vegas police officer.
Rider, 20, was arrested Jan. 24 after he allegedly became belligerent after getting the wrong food at a fast-food restaurant.
* LOYOLA MARYMOUNT: A judge in Torrance, Calif., agreed to decide how a $1 million settlement should be divided between the mother and 8-year-old son of former player Hank Gathers.
Superior Court Judge J. Gary Hastings did not indicate how soon he would hand down a ruling.
The settlement was reached last year between Gathers' family and Dr. Vernon T. Hattori, a cardiologist who treated Gathers for a heart ailment before he died after collapsing during a game.
WEST VIRGINIA: West Virginia point guard Marsalis Basey was suspended for breaking team rules and could miss the rest of the season, coach Gale Catlett said.
Catlett declined to give details of the suspension yesterday.
* DePAUL: Blue Demons players are not being investigated by the FBI to see whether Chicago's largest bank provided them with bank-owned apartments and condos, athletic director Bill Bradshaw said.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported yesterday that such an investigation was underway.
"They are not probing any ties between our players and the bank," Bradshaw said.