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Prep Schools: The evolution of recruiting high school basketball players

Findlay Prep heads the lists of new Prep Schools
Findlay Prep heads the lists of new Prep Schools

Many high school sports fans around the Cleveland area have had the discussion over and over again. It seems to be an annual topic of conversation, especially when another private school such as St. Ignatius or St. Edward wins a state championship every year. It's the never ending saga of Public v.s. Private. Should private schools have their own divisions? While we can argue it to death whenever it comes up, there is something else that is evolving that makes the whole Public v.s. Private debate one grain of sand on a mile long beach.

The rise of so-called "Prep Schools"

The boosters who ran the SMU football program in the 1980's that resulted in the NCAA "death penalty" think this concept has gotten out of hand

What exactly is a Prep School?.... The original definition of a Prep School is one where the school in question runs a College Preparatory Program for those students that are going to go to college. Pretty self explanatory right? Some Prep Schools in the country still adhere to those values, and do an incredible job getting their students prepared for college life and education. There are a few however, that have turned the mission of the Prep School away from the educational aspect, and turned it into "Preparing basketball players to succeed at the next level". Let's take a look at a couple of the more well known Prep Schools, paying attention to how they were formed, and the success of the program through the manipulation of their rosters.

Huntington Prep (WV).... Huntington Prep, technically was formed in 2007, when it merged with St. Joseph Central Catholic High School. Its reputation started before that. Ohio basketball stars OJ Mayo and Bill Walker transferred from North College Hill High School in Cincinnati. At the time Mayo and Walker transferred in, Huntington Prep was still known as Huntington High. When administrators and others associated with the program saw what success the basketball program could have, they wanted to have more of these players transfer in from all over the country. To avoid transfer rules and eligibility requirements, the Prep School concept was born. Take a look at Huntington Prep's roster. Not only do they have players from all over the country, but some players from Canada and Puerto Rico.

Huntington Prep players still have to attend school at St.Joseph's, however, as a separate entity, they are immune to state regulations as far as travel when scheduling, thus allowing Huntington Prep to play a national schedule, traveling all across the country to play games. How has the shift to Prep School status gone so far? They have been a Top 10 high school team in the country for all six years they have been in existence. How good are they? They recently took on two of the better teams in the Cleveland area in the past week, in Cleveland Central Catholic and Shaker Hts.

They beat both teams by the identical score...78-36

The probable #1 pick in the NBA draft in June this year is Andrew Wiggins of Kansas, who is an alum of Huntington Prep.....and is also from Canada....a nice little perk of being a Prep School.

Oak Hill Academy (VA).... Probably the most well known of the Prep Schools, and also the one with the deepest tradition. Opened in the 1980-81 season, and continuing on to this day, Oak Hill has been the gold standard of success that all Prep Schools dream about. They have a "Who's who" of players that have played in the NBA, including Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Brandon Jennings, and Ty Lawson. Oak Hill is actually a co-ed school, with an enrollment of about 150 kids. Granted about 50 of them are great basketball players, so it is actually more of a basketball factory than an institution of higher learning.

How are they doing this year? With a roster of kids from all over the country, Oak Hill currently sits at 25-2, with another 10-15 games remaining on the schedule. Oh yeah, another perk of a Prep School? Unlimited scheduling of games. They are not bound by state rules on number of games played. Five of Oak Hill's seniors have signed with Division I colleges. The most well known of this kids is B.J. Stith, the son of former NBA player Bryant Stith.

But the winner of the Basketball Factory masquerading as a high school team goes to:

Findlay Prep (NV).... The Pilots of Findlay Prep, for the last few seasons, have always been one of the Top 5 high school teams in the country. Since 2007, Findlay Prep has compiled a record of 189-13. In their case, the term "high school team" doesn't really apply. Yes, they have players of high school age on their team. Yes, they play a competitive schedule against the best of the best each year, and yes, they travel around the country to play that schedule. So, what makes Findlay Prep different from Huntington Prep and Oak Hill Academy? It would be hilarious if it wasn't so sad.

Enrollment at Findlay Prep.....11....yes, 11. The basketball team. Among the 11 team members, only 5 of them are from the United States. The others are from Canada and Nigeria. They also all happen to have size, including a 6'9" freshman.

Think that is bad, just wait. It gets much worse.

The full name of the school is Findlay Prep of the Henderson International School. So on the surface, it seems no different that Huntington Prep being a part of St. Joseph Central Catholic does it?

Not so fast

The Henderson International School only accepts students in grades K-8. So where does that leave Findlay Prep? Do they have a "school" that they go to?

No, they don't. They don't physically go to school

Findlay Prep has no campus, and no real school. The players ARE taught by teachers at Henderson International School at their home. Yes, I said home, not homes. That is because all live together. All eleven of them. Not in dorm mind you, but in a half million dollar house less than a mile from the gym.

Sick to your stomach yet?....One more thing:

Findlay Prep is sponsored by Nike. All Nike gear all the time. One of Findlay Prep's best players this year, Craig Victor II, has signed to play at Arizona. You guessed it, Arizona has a shoe contract with Nike. So, under the guise of being a high school, the basketball factory has produced what it was set out to do. All 100 players that have played at Findlay Prep have received Division I basketball scholarships, including Anthony Bennett, the number one pick in the NBA Draft last season by the Cavaliers. Therefore, they can brag that they have a 100 percent graduation rate.

That HAS to make your stomach turn.

So, here is how the process works.... Your son shows some great talent in basketball, and as a parent, you want your child to improve and play against better competition. You feel that playing AAU basketball will get your kid where he needs to be. Starting in fifth grade, he starts playing AAU so he can get exposure as a player. By the seventh and eighth grades, he is one of the better players in his age group. By that time, high school coaches are in contact with you about attending their high school. Since your son has played all over the country, the schools contacting you come from all over the country. Do you listen? Should your son play for his high school team and with all his friends? Maybe by that time, the shoe companies may be supplying gear to the AAU team. Do you follow the shoe company to the high school of their choosing?

By attending one these "Basketball Factories" are you sacrificing a part of your son's future by putting athletics ahead of education? What if your son doesn't "make it" to the NBA after his freshman year of college? Speaking of college, how much pressure would be put on you and your son about what college to attend, especially if a specific shoe company has been supplying the high school team he plays on?

It's the dirty business that is high school recruiting now a days

Kind of makes the whole Public v.s. Private argument seem a little petty, now doesn't it?

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