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North Carolina

List of current, former UNC players tied to convicted felon growing

Posted July 23, 2013

— Haydn "Fats" Thomas, the Durham man at the center of the rental car controversy involving University of North Carolina basketball player PJ Hairston, has connections to even more current and former Tar Heels athletes.

Documents and social media posts tie Thomas, a convicted felon and party promoter, to current UNC basketball player Leslie McDonald, former basketball players John Henson, Dexter Strickland and Harrison Barnes and former UNC football player Greg Little.

The university issued a cease and desist letter last week ordering Iceberg Holdings to remove any marketing images of McDonald showcasing a designer mouthguard after becoming aware that the company was using images of McDonald wearing the high-end mouth piece.

Spencer Howard, an oral surgeon in Durham, is one of the founders of Iceberg Holdings. Howard is a UNC dental school graduate. He and Thomas are cousins and business partners.

More connections between 'Fats', UNC players found Sims: More connections between 'Fats', UNC players found

Thomas first made news in June after rental vehicles driven by PJ Hairston were traced back to his address.

Hairston and two others were arrested at a traffic checkpoint in Durham June 5 when police found marijuana in their vehicle. Hairston was also charged with driving without a license. All charges against Hairston have since been dropped, but the other two men each face one misdemeanor count of possession of marijuana.

Thomas also knows McDonald personally.

The two were seen together in a photograph posted to Facebook at a club party, along with Henson.

And the connections continue.

On his Twitter account last year, McDonald tweeted about a cell phone he got from Thomas. He said in the Tweet, "yeah all I did is restore it and activated it."

Also, WRAL found McDonald was pulled over July 4 for speeding. He was driving a 2012 Chevy Malibu owned by a man who told WRAL he does odd jobs for Thomas. He said he let McDonald borrow the Malibu because McDonald is a friend.

Thomas told WRAL he barely knows any of these UNC basketball players, calling them “passing acquaintances.” But, on Thomas' Facebook page, WRAL found another UNC connection - Thomas is friends with former Tar Heels basketball player Barnes.

Even more Twitter posts from a now-deleted account show Thomas has relationships with former Duke wide receiver Desmond Scott and former Durham Riverside stand out Weslye Saunders

Already a convicted felon, Thomas currently faces drug and weapon charges stemming from an arrest in December. That case has piqued the interest of the US Attorney's office.

While the rental cars driven by Hairston raise the possibility of NCAA violations, the other connections to Thomas may not. They do, however, raise questions about a convicted felon's ties to former and current UNC basketball players.

In a statement Tuesday, a UNC spokesperson said, “All of our coaches, including Coach Williams, talk to their teams on a regular basis about making good choices and good decisions in all aspects of their lives, not just athletically but academically and socially. Coach Williams has often said that he is not just coaching for wins and losses, but to develop outstanding young men who make positive impacts around campus and in the community. And his teams’ track record over 25 years as a head coach has shown that to be the case on and off the court. Coach Williams has and will continue to stress to our students the importance of making those good choices and decisions.”

140 Comments

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  • I am not who you think I am Jul 23, 7:50 p.m.

    it's the gift that keeps on giving...kinda like an STD

  • FAN72 Jul 23, 7:53 p.m.

    I guess it is too difficult to keep an eye on so many athletes. Word spreads quickly among students/athletes when a party is being held. The company we keep can be an indication of how closely the university (all universities) monitors the social networking. "Fats" just doesn't pass the "smell test."

  • Last Word Jul 23, 7:58 p.m.

    WRAL just can't let it go just like the News and Observer. Every school has done something... View More

    — Posted by sbest3

    Yeah "Let it Go" when its UNC with a not-so-favorable spotlight shining directly on their beloved athletic dept. Much different tune being sung by the Hole-iest when its any other University involved in the same activities. The word for today is Hypocrite

  • FAN72 Jul 23, 7:59 p.m.

    WRAL just can't let it go just like the News and Observer. Every school has done something... View More

    — Posted by sbest3

    Can't stand the exposure? Bet you wouldn't be pleading with the media to let it go if the exposure was concerning Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, Clemson, Va. Tech, Ga. Tech, Florida State....well, you get the idea!

  • ncsu85 Jul 23, 8:00 p.m.

    ''Everybody does it"......The last refuge of the guilty.........

  • Groogrux Jul 23, 8:01 p.m.

    I thought the "let it go" comment was a joke, since N and O just printed an article Sunday

  • zanemiller6 Jul 23, 8:06 p.m.

    WRAL just can't let it go just like the News and Observer. Every school has done something... View More

    — Posted by sbest3

    Not every school has set up nonexistent classes in order to keep athletes eligible. Not every school has forged professor signatures in order to make sure class records seem legit. Not every school pays over half a million dollars to a PR firm in order to spin facts and cover up problems they could have solved themselves if the University hadn't sacrificed its academic reputation in order to save athletics.

    People who really care about UNC need to stop placing blame on those who are reporting facts that put UNC in a negative light. They need to place blame on UNC for causing the problems and not caring enough to find solutions.

  • early exit Roy Jul 23, 8:06 p.m.

    sbest3, not everybody is as corrupt as unc. Maybe some schools have "minor" violations, but unc thinks they are above other schools. They are in trouble but they keep rubbing it in your face. They just can't understand when you are under so much scrutiny you need to shut the blank up.

  • sbest3 Jul 23, 8:09 p.m.

    let it go!

  • mrseismic Jul 23, 8:12 p.m.

    As a Tar Heel fan of 25 years, this is embarrassing - even if I believe that other schools 'do it' as well, it doesn't matter. Our guys HAVE to understand that fair or not, they face scrutiny b/c of who they are - and they HAVE to make better choices in 'friends'. I understand that as a 20 year old college student if some guy lets you borrow his car and it beats the snot out of your 1998 Corolla (or whatever), you say 'Oh, yeah, cool!'. But you just can't do it. Perception is reality in the eyes of the public - and ABC'ers. There is enough blame to go around on everything surrounding our program (and school) the past 3 years, don't compound it. The one thing I can say -- I do love how the article talks about the list of UNC athletes grows -- then have one tiny little mention of a Duke WR 3/4 of the way through. But that doesn't mean anything...it's all about what our players did wrong.

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