Jan 19, 2011
A High School Team Without A High School

Millions of dreamers stream into Las Vegas every year, hoping to get lucky, beat the odds, and strike it rich. Less than 20 miles away, in Henderson, Nevada, ten young men don’t leave their dreams to chance; instead, they have come from all corners of the globe—Turkey, Canada, Lithuania– to stack the odds in their favor.

The dream for these young men is a Division I basketball scholarship, and they’ve come to the right place: Findlay College Prep. Since its birth in 2006, Findlay Prep has compiled a record of 116-5, winning back-to-back ESPN RISE national championships in the past two seasons. Each player that has gone through the program has earned a full scholarship to a Division I school.

After two wins in the 2011 HoopHall Classic this past weekend, Findlay’s record sits at 19-2. Seniors Myck Kabonga, Nick Johnson, and Amir Garrett have accepted scholarships to Texas, Arizona, and St. John’s, respectively.

Despite the tremendous success of its basketball program, Findlay Prep has been widely criticized for its approach to academics. Simply put, Findlay Prep is a basketball team, not a high school.

The players on the Findlay Prep basketball team are its only students and they take classes at Henderson International School, a preschool through 12th grade, fully-accreditted private school across the street from the player’s home. The Findlay players live in a five-bedroom, four-bathroom house, purchased for $425, 000 by the Findlay Prep founder, Cliff Findlay.

Findlay is the emperor of a local auto dealer empire, a UNLV booster and former Runnin’ Rebel basketball player. Findlay established a foundation that pays for each player’s $17, 000 tuition at Henderson International School. Findlay also purchases a laptop for each player and supports the team’s travel expenses.

Findlay Prep is independent of the Nevada atheltic association, playing a national schedule that requires about 30, 000 miles of travel each season. The team is also sponsored by Nike, who supply equipment and help defray some of the other expenses.

Rumors have circulated around the high school basketball circuit that Findlay established Findlay Prep in order to create a pipeline to his beloved Runnin’ Rebels, a direct violation of NCAA policy. Head coach Michael Peck is a former video coordinator assistant for UNLV, while associate head coach Todd Simon was a graduate assistant at UNLV and assistant coach Andy Johnson was an aid to UNLV head coach Lon Kruger.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Peck responded to allegations that he steers players towards UNLV:

“As far as a pipeline, there’s nothing in writing, Peck said. Do they have an advantage? You can argue yes or no.

“Geographically, we’re close. Is that an advantage? Some would say yes. I don’t think it is, because nowadays, people can get here in a quick plane ride. It’s just coincidental that I was there on staff.”

Two Findlay Prep players, Brice Massamba and Carlos Lopez, have gone on to play at UNLV. Sophomore Nigel Williams-Goss has also verbally committed to UNLV, however, Williams-Goss’ cousin Mike Moser plays for the Runnin’ Rebels.

“We’re only a few miles away from the campus, so obviously the UNLV coaching staff gets more of a chance to evaluate our kids, Findlay told Sports Illustrated. “But there’s no one in our program who’s in any way pushing players to sign with a particular school.”

Other critics of the program consider Findlay Prep a “basketball factory” and deride their association with Henderson International School as a farce. The criticism has only grown louder this season after Henderson International School closed its high school due to financial concerns.

After months of uncertainty, Findlay Prep and Henderson International School struck a deal where the players could continue their education for the foreseeable future. All juniors in the high school were also offered the opportunity to complete their degree at Henderson, which only one student accepted.

The criticism, however, does not concern Peck. Peck points out that all Findlay Prep graduates have been NCAA eligible from the moment they set foot on a college campus. Peck also says that Findlay Prep alumni currently in college have a combined 2.3 GPA, a number he’s very proud of considering the huge time commitment of big time Division I basketball.

“I think it’s just ignorance, Peck said regarding the criticism. If you ask me, It’s a little cutting edge.

“Our kids (essentially) go to college as sophomores. If you ask the colleges what they think of it, if they could get all of their freshman to be like that, I think they’d all raise their hand and say I’m in.”

Because Findlay Prep is independent of the Nevada athletic association, the players do no have to qualify academically to play for the team. However, Peck said the program has adopted its own academic requirements; in order to play, each player must maintain a 2.0 GPA and be enrolled in a full load of courses, according to Peck.

A typical school day for the Findlay players starts with a morning practice from nine to 11, followed by class from 11 to 12. After a short lunch break, classes resume until three. The day concludes with a weight training session from three to four before the players return home to study.

“Everybody thinks its not like a regular school, senior guard Nick Johnson said, but I always tell everybody its way harder than my old high school.

“We have classes, and we have teachers, Johnson deadpanned. Nobody gives us anything. It’s our responsibility to get our work done.”

The players do receive ACT and SAT tutoring from members of the Princeton Review, as well as the help of assistant coaches and dorm parents, Brett Price and Andy Johnson. Price and Johnson live with their players, making sure the guys get their work done, but also developing close bonds with the players.

“They are like our foster parents, Nick Johnson said. They know we all left our families to pursue our dream and they do everything they can to help us out.”

“Its a unique situation, Andy Johnson added. You feel like you play an important part in their lives.”

After the school work is complete, the players usually hang out together and do normal teenager stuff. NBA 2K11 tournaments on X-Box are common, but long nights of Call of Duty are the preferred method of entertainment. As you’d expect in a house full of teenage boys, tempers flare occasionally and arguments break out between teammates, but the living situation has brought the players closer together.

“There is a bond that is created because they are going through everything together, Peck said. There’s a camaraderie, a natural built-in bond.”

“We have the opportunity to form a brotherhood, Nick Johnson said.

For as long as Findlay Prep remains in the national spotlight, accusations will be leveled against them.

Findlay may just be a desert mirage, much like the bright lights of Las Vegas covering up its seedy underbelly. Or maybe, this unique institution is playing its cards just right.

A High School Team Without A High School

MassLive.com

Millions of dreamers stream into Las Vegas every year, hoping to get lucky, beat the odds, and strike it rich. Less than 20 miles away, in Henderson, Nevada, ten young men don’t leave their dreams to chance; instead, they have come from all corners of the globe—Turkey, Canada, Lithuania– to stack the odds in their favor.

The dream for these young men is a Division I basketball scholarship, and they’ve come to the right place: Findlay College Prep. Since its birth in 2006, Findlay Prep has compiled a record of 116-5, winning back-to-back ESPN RISE national championships in the past two seasons. Each player that has gone through the program has earned a full scholarship to a Division I school.

After two wins in the 2011 HoopHall Classic this past weekend, Findlay’s record sits at 19-2. Seniors Myck Kabonga, Nick Johnson, and Amir Garrett have accepted scholarships to Texas, Arizona, and St. John’s, respectively.

Despite the tremendous success of its basketball program, Findlay Prep has been widely criticized for its approach to academics. Simply put, Findlay Prep is a basketball team, not a high school.

The players on the Findlay Prep basketball team are its only students and they take classes at Henderson International School, a preschool through 12th grade, fully-accreditted private school across the street from the player’s home. The Findlay players live in a five-bedroom, four-bathroom house, purchased for $425, 000 by the Findlay Prep founder, Cliff Findlay.

Findlay is the emperor of a local auto dealer empire, a UNLV booster and former Runnin’ Rebel basketball player. Findlay established a foundation that pays for each player’s $17, 000 tuition at Henderson International School. Findlay also purchases a laptop for each player and supports the team’s travel expenses.

Findlay Prep is independent of the Nevada atheltic association, playing a national schedule that requires about 30, 000 miles of travel each season. The team is also sponsored by Nike, who supply equipment and help defray some of the other expenses.

Rumors have circulated around the high school basketball circuit that Findlay established Findlay Prep in order to create a pipeline to his beloved Runnin’ Rebels, a direct violation of NCAA policy. Head coach Michael Peck is a former video coordinator assistant for UNLV, while associate head coach Todd Simon was a graduate assistant at UNLV and assistant coach Andy Johnson was an aid to UNLV head coach Lon Kruger.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Peck responded to allegations that he steers players towards UNLV:

“As far as a pipeline, there’s nothing in writing, Peck said. Do they have an advantage? You can argue yes or no.

“Geographically, we’re close. Is that an advantage? Some would say yes. I don’t think it is, because nowadays, people can get here in a quick plane ride. It’s just coincidental that I was there on staff.”

Two Findlay Prep players, Brice Massamba and Carlos Lopez, have gone on to play at UNLV. Sophomore Nigel Williams-Goss has also verbally committed to UNLV, however, Williams-Goss’ cousin Mike Moser plays for the Runnin’ Rebels.

“We’re only a few miles away from the campus, so obviously the UNLV coaching staff gets more of a chance to evaluate our kids, Findlay told Sports Illustrated . But there’s no one in our program who’s in any way pushing players to sign with a particular school.”

Other critics of the program consider Findlay Prep a “basketball factory” and deride their association with Henderson International School as a farce. The criticism has only grown louder this season after Henderson International School closed its high school due to financial concerns.

After months of uncertainty, Findlay Prep and Henderson International School struck a deal where the players could continue their education for the foreseeable future. All juniors in the high school were also offered the opportunity to complete their degree at Henderson, which only one student accepted.

The criticism, however, does not concern Peck. Peck points out that all Findlay Prep graduates have been NCAA eligible from the moment they set foot on a college campus. Peck also says that Findlay Prep alumni currently in college have a combined 2.3 GPA, a number he’s very proud of considering the huge time commitment of big time Division I basketball.

“I think it’s just ignorance, Peck said regarding the criticism. If you ask me, It’s a little cutting edge.

“Our kids (essentially) go to college as sophomores. If you ask the colleges what they think of it, if they could get all of their freshman to be like that, I think they’d all raise their hand and say I’m in.”

Because Findlay Prep is independent of the Nevada athletic association, the players do no have to qualify academically to play for the team. However, Peck said the program has adopted its own academic requirements; in order to play, each player must maintain a 2.0 GPA and be enrolled in a full load of courses, according to Peck.

A typical school day for the Findlay players starts with a morning practice from nine to 11, followed by class from 11 to 12. After a short lunch break, classes resume until three. The day concludes with a weight training session from three to four before the players return home to study.

“Everybody thinks its not like a regular school, senior guard Nick Johnson said, but I always tell everybody its way harder than my old high school.

“We have classes, and we have teachers, Johnson deadpanned. Nobody gives us anything. It’s our responsibility to get our work done.”

The players do receive ACT and SAT tutoring from members of the Princeton Review, as well as the help of assistant coaches and dorm parents, Brett Price and Andy Johnson. Price and Johnson live with their players, making sure the guys get their work done, but also developing close bonds with the players.

“They are like our foster parents, Nick Johnson said. They know we all left our families to pursue our dream and they do everything they can to help us out.”

“Its a unique situation, Andy Johnson added. You feel like you play an important part in their lives.”

After the school work is complete, the players usually hang out together and do normal teenager stuff. NBA 2K11 tournaments on X-Box are common, but long nights of Call of Duty are the preferred method of entertainment. As you’d expect in a house full of teenage boys, tempers flare occasionally and arguments break out between teammates, but the living situation has brought the players closer together.

“There is a bond that is created because they are going through everything together, Peck said. There’s a camaraderie, a natural built-in bond.”

“We have the opportunity to form a brotherhood, ” Nick Johnson said.

For as long as Findlay Prep remains in the national spotlight, accusations will be leveled against them.

Findlay may just be a desert mirage, much like the bright lights of Las Vegas covering up its seedy underbelly. Or maybe, this unique institution is playing its cards just right.






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