Paulding, Johnson deny allegations

After allegations surfaced Tuesday night that Rickey Paulding and Arthur Johnson received money from coaches, the two Missouri seniors released a statement Wednesday and talked to the media, denying they had ever received cash from any Missouri staff.

With a crew of about 50 media personnel watching the door, Rickey Paulding stepped out for a little "peek-a-boo" and ducked back behind the black gates to the Missouri locker room.

Seconds later, he and senior Arthur Johnson came out smiling. Their moods might have been light, but the allegations reported late Tuesday night were anything but.

Paulding and Johnson both denied they had received improper payments from Missouri assistants, as former guard Ricky Clemons had alleged in tape conversations from the Boone County Jail.

"When I first got here, they did, they did everybody," Clemons said. "I mean, they do A.J. (center Arthur Johnson) and (forward) Rickey (Paudling. If they need money, they'd go to Harvey. He, he'd get it for 'em."

Both Paulding and Johnson released statements Wednesday that were strikingly similar, with only a few words differing the two. Their final statements were the same: "All I can say is that we have not ever received any impermissible benefits, including cash, from any of our coaches."

Paulding referred back to his statement Wednesday, trying to move questions away from the allegations to Missouri's game against Gonzaga on Saturday.

"It's a situation that's out of our control, and right now, our main focus is basketball and our next game," Paulding said.

Johnson didn't hear about the reports, which went up on the Columbia Daily Tribune's Web site late Tuesday night, until the morning. There was no team meeting about it.

"I heard it on the radio driving to class," Johnson said. "I just thought it B.S. just like it's been throughout the year."

"There ain't nothing going on, just more talking about it."

Johnson said no one had talked to Clemons since he was sentenced in June for two misdemeanors for choking and restraining his ex-girlfriend, Jessica Bunge.

"I bet you we won't, though, now," he said.

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