Te'o breaks silence, but only leads to more questions

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Te'o breaks silence, but only leads to more questions

Updated: Saturday, Jan. 19, 1:36 a.m.

Late Friday night, Manti Te'o spoke to the media for the first time since it was learned his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, was the product of an elaborate hoax. What was gleaned from Jeremy Schapp's interview with Te'o, though, only fostered more questions and speculation about the linebacker's relationship with Kekua.

Te'o denied any involvement in the hoax, and said Ronaiah Tuiasosopo -- originally reported by Deadspin.com to be the mastermind behind Kekua -- sent him a message on Twitter confessing to and apologizing for the Kekua hoax. Schapp said Te'o showed him twitter messages from Tuiasosopo after the interview was conducted.

As first pointed out by Deadspin.com, though, there doesn't appear to be anyone Te'o follows who could be Tuiasosopo, which would be necessary for someone to send Te'o a direct message on Twitter. CSNChicago.com looked through the users Te'o followed and came to the same conclusion, although it's not a definitive one.

Te'o said he didn't fully believe Kekua wasn't real until Tuiasosopo admitted the hoax to him, and that was only two days ago.

On Dec. 6, Te'o received a call from the person he thought was Kekua, who told him she was alive and had to fake her death to avoid drug dealers. According to Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, Te'o informed the university of his suspicions he had been hoaxed on Dec. 26, and the private investigative firm hired by the school presented its findings to the Te'o family on Jan. 5.

After Dec. 6, Te'o made mention multiple times about his girlfriend's death. He told Schapp, though, that after receiving the call he went on a "rampage," and finished it by saying: "My Lennay died on Sept. 12."

ESPN initially reported Te'o said a woman who claimed to be Kekua showed up at Notre Dame's hotel in South Florida during the week leading up to the BCS Championship, although that has since been dropped from its story.

Another central question Te'o answered regarded his supposed in-person meetings with Kekua, which he admitted to lying about. He told his father, Brian, he had met Kekua face-to-face, and "catered" his stories so it would be thought he met Kekua before she died.

"I knew that -- I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet," Te'o told ESPN. "And that alone people find out that this girl who died I was so invested in, and I didn't meet her as well."

While Te'o has said Kekua was the "love of his life," he didn't think to try to see her in the hospital after he was told she was in a car crash April 28 -- also, when he said he and Kekua became inseparable. His explanation: "It never really crossed my mind. I don't know. I was in school."

Earlier in the week, ESPN reported via an anonymous teammate that some members of the Notre Dame football team didn't think Kekua was really Te'o's girlfriend, and that he perpetuated the idea he was serious with Kekua out of a love for attention.

Te'o did say he attempted to video chat with Kekua, but said he never saw the person because of a "black box" on the opposite end of the chat.

Te'o also told ESPN he and Kekua got into an argument the day his grandmother passed away -- "I didn't want to be bothered," Te'o said -- and then later that day, he received a phone call saying Kekua had died of leukemia.

From what Te'o said, it doesn't sound as if he or the family will pursue legal action. When asked about Tuiasosopo, Te'o told ESPN:

"I hope he learns. I hope he understands what he's done. I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough."

The linebacker's interview answered a few questions, but created plenty more. One central question that may never be publicly answered: What, exactly, was the nature of Te'o's relationship with Kekua? Was it truly as deep as Te'o has made it out to be, or was it more along the lines of what some of Te'o's teammates reportedly suspected? If he really felt a deep, emotional love for Kekua, why would school and football get in the way of him attempting to see her when she was in the hospital?

The answers to those questions have nothing to do with a hoax, though -- they would've been questions if Kekua had actually existed. The hoax angle hasn't been completely answered yet, but is far closer than most questions. Most of the evidence, outside of a friend of Tuiasosopo's telling Deadspin there was an "80 percent" chance Te'o was involved, seems to point to Te'o being duped.

A few other questions: If Te'o wasn't convinced Kekua didn't exist until a few days ago, what did the findings of the investigation commissioned by Notre Dame find? Were those findings shared with just Te'o's parents, or did he have access to them as well?

The question of why Te'o still referred to Kekua as being dead after Dec. 6 wasn't completely answered -- perhaps he believed his version of Kekua died on Sept. 12, but then why did he only come to the realization she didn't exist on Wednesday?

These are all questions -- and there are more, too -- that can be answered with a follow-up interview -- if that is to occur, either soon, at the NFL combine in February or when Te'o moves on to the NFL. The answers to them certainly won't satisfy everyone, no matter how apt an explanation as plenty have already made up their minds on one side of the fence or the other regarding Te'o.

But a gray area remains in this saga, and it's one that may never go away.

Saturday on CSN: Bradley vs. Nevada; Illinois State vs. New Mexico

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Saturday on CSN: Bradley vs. Nevada; Illinois State vs. New Mexico

CSN will have two quality college basketball matchups on Saturday as two Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge games will be featured live.

Bradley (4-3) has Nevada (6-2) in town for a 7 p.m. game Saturday on CSN while Illinois State (3-2) will host New Mexico (5-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday on CSN+.

The Braves have alternated wins and losses all season as they hope to build momentum off of a road win over Eastern Illinois.

Freshman guard Darrell Brown paces Bradley at 15.3 points per game on 48 percent three-point shooting while junior guard JoJo McGlaston is putting up 12.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per contest.

Nevada enters this one winning four of their last five games as senior guard Marcus Marshall is averaging 20.0 points and 3.9 assists per game. Sophomore forward Cameron Oliver has been generating some pro buzz as he's averaging 16.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 44 percent from three-point range.

In the second contest, Illinois State is hoping for a key non-conference win against a quality opponent. Senior forward Deontae Hawkins is doing some solid damage as he's averaging 16.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while junior forward MiKyle McIntosh is at 14.2 points and 7.2 rebounds a game.

Proviso East product Paris Lee is also having a good year at guard for Illinois State.

New Mexico is led by a former area product as Homewood-Flossmoor graduate Tim Williams is averaging 19.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for the Lobos. Junior guard Elijah Brown, the son of former NBA coach Mike Brown, is also playing well for New Mexico as he's putting up 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.

Preview: Northern Iowa takes on George Mason tonight on CSN+

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Preview: Northern Iowa takes on George Mason tonight on CSN+

Northern Iowa looks to snap a two-game losing streak as they host George Mason tonight. You can catch this game live on CSN+ at 7 p.m.

The Panthers (3-2) have lost both games to Xavier as Northern Iowa matched up with the top-25 team for the title in the Tire Pros Invitational in Orlando before losing to them on the road less than a week later.

Northern Iowa does own some solid wins over Oklahoma and Arizona State as they're led by senior Jeremy Morgan, who is averaging 16.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game -- which all lead the team. 

Junior forward Klint Carlson has also been strong for the Panthers as he's put up 12.2 points per game while shooting 44 percent from three-point range.

George Mason (3-2) has won three consecutive games -- with two of those wins coming by four points or less. The Patriots haven't played anyone as good as Northern Iowa yet as they beat Kent State, Bradley and James Madison.