Remember Thomas de Thaey? He was a European forward that Mark Gottfried brought on board shortly after being hired. De Thaey was brought in to help buttress the talented but thin roster Gottfried inherited, but de Thaey's adjustment to the college game was rough, and he abruptly left the program early in his sophomore season.
Thomas de Thaey was the product of the Canarias Basketball Academy on Gran Canaria, which is a part of the Canary Island chain. NC State also took a team trip to the Canaries in the summer between his freshman and sophomore seasons. As a recent story by Luke Winn and Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated explains, that may not have been coincidence.
It turns out a lot of schools have recently been booking overseas trips with a travel company that is based in Gran Canaria and is also very clearly connected to Canarias Basketball Academy. Incidentally, every single one of those schools has signed a player from CBA. NC State is in that group.
A CBA assistant coach also happens to be the listed president of the travel company ("Promo Sport"). CBA and Promo Sport share the same business address. NC State's paid Promo Sport nearly $160,000 for its trip through Spain and the Canaries in 2012.
Does this smell funny? Yes, yes it does. Check out the Seton Hall portion of the article. Is there anything to suggest wrongdoing, beyond the wink-wink nudge-nudge of the obvious conflict of interest at work here? No. The NCAA doesn't have any rules governing this sort of thing, either. From the SI piece:
Although the NCAA Division I manual prohibits "arrangements by an institution that involve a material benefit for a high school, preparatory school or two-year college coach, or for any other individual responsible for teaching or directing an activity in which a prospective student-athlete is involved," there are no specific rules prohibiting transactions between colleges and foreign tour businesses that have associations to recruits.
College coaches are always looking for an edge, so if there were handshake agreements involved with this, I would not be surprised. What better way to escape the NCAA than travel to another continent? De Thaey, for his part, says in the article that he never felt coerced to sign with NC State, but wasn't aware of the connection between his club team and the travel company, either.
There are no allegations of wrongdoing in the article, but taken as a whole, it's an incredibly unlikely string of coincidence perpetrated by a dozen schools and one travel company that's seen its revenues and connections increase quite a bit.
What's it mean for NC State, moving forward? Nothing.