Family member, friend say they paid rent for ex-Cat Bledsoe

men insist former coach did nothing wrong

July 8, 2010 

A relative and a family friend told the Birmingham News that they paid rent for Eric Bledsoe's family while the former University of Kentucky basketball player was in high school.

A New York Times article in late May said Bledsoe's coach at Parker High School, Maurice Ford, paid the rent in question, which would have been a violation of Alabama High School Athletic Association rules and jeopardized Bledsoe's college eligibility.

But Billy Fagnes, who is a first cousin to Bledsoe's mother, Maureen Reddick, told the Birmingham newspaper in an article published Wednesday that his family paid most of the rent on the house where Reddick and Bledsoe lived during his senior year. Also, Jerome McMullin, who described himself as a close family friend, said he helped the family pay the rent.

Ford declined to comment to the Birmingham News but previously denied paying any rent.

Bledsoe played one season at Kentucky before becoming one of five Wildcats selected in the first round of last month's NBA Draft.

In May, The New York Times quoted landlord Brenda Axle as saying she never received any money from Bledsoe or his mother and that Ford paid the rent three or four times in cash, but Axle disputes that account.

She told The Birmingham News that Ford gave her cash but that she always assumed the money came from Bledsoe's mother. Axle worked at Parker High School and said occasionally having Ford deliver the rent money was easiest.

Axle told the Birmingham News she gave the same description of events to the AHSAA, which has been reviewing Bledsoe's eligibility since questions surfaced in May. McMullin also wanted to clear Ford's name.

"They went through some hard times, and I helped them pay their rent," McMullin told the Birmingham News. "I took them to get food for them. There's a lot of things they didn't have, and people stepped up to the plate and helped out. I never asked for anything or any kind of favor. I did it out of the goodness of my heart. Maurice didn't do anything."

Fagnes also said Ford never paid rent for Bledsoe.

"It was me and my family who paid it," Fagnes said. "One time, I gave the rent money to Maurice Ford because the landlady was running late, and I'm a contractor and had to get to work. So I gave it to Maurice Ford to give to her."

Fagnes also told the Birmingham paper he brought Bledsoe to Parker and disputed claims that Ford recruited the player:

"The story that Maurice Ford recruited Bledsoe to Parker — that's wrong. He didn't even know he was coming to Parker."

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