Sports Illustrated has a very curious story this week about Findlay Prep, the team that won ESPN's inaugrual RISE National High School Invitational tournament last weekend. There's just one issue—Findlay Prep is not a high school.
The Findlay in Findlay Prep is Cliff Findlay, a UNLV booster who set up a basketball program all by himself. The players live in a house that he paid for and fully stocked with furniture, big screen TVs, food—for when they aren't eating out on the Vegas strip—and Nike clothing. (As assistant coach lives there as their babysitter.) He also pays for all their equipment and travel costs when they go to away games, and he pays (with other "investors") for the $16,000-a-year tuition at the nearby Henderson International School. They do go to school, just not one that has a basketball team. (But they do have a website and a documentary in the making!)
In other words, they get a better deal than most college basketball players, but the team itself is completely independent of any high school federation or its bylines. And it's all perfectly cool with the NCAA.
So this is pretty much what high school basketball is headed toward. Most high school teams—particularly public schools—would never be allowed to play in tourneys like the NHSI, because playing in "national" championships (or any out of state game) is not allowed. But a player can be recruited to independent programs like Findlay, get national TV exposure, lots of free crap, and none of the restrictions of playing for a stupid high school—but I'm sure they're hitting the books hard. Oh, and if a few of the players end up at Findlay's alma mater, UNLV, that's just a happy coincidence.
The best example of what these programs can do for someone is the tale of junior Tristan Thompson. Thompson—who is actually from Toronto—was playing for Bobby Hurley's other son, Dan, at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark earlier this season. He got into argument with his coach during a game and was kicked off the team on a Tuesday in February. By the following Saturday, he was already on the roster at Findaly Prep. Yes, it's that awesome.
"We stress discipline in the house, in the classroom and on the court," says [Assistant Coach Todd] Simon. "We don't claim to be like the public school down the street. But we're not a fly-by-night school that's just putting kids on the court without regard for their education. Every kid who's finished here has been academically eligible to play in college. If there could be 50 more programs like ours, I think the system would be so much better off."
I'm sure it would be. What system are we talking about again?
March Madness Comes To High School Hoops Is That A Good Thing? [Sports Illustrated]
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Findlay Prep Basketball