Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Denied a chance to compete for state, Prime Prep looks for national basketball title
Prime Prep Academy dropped out of the University Interscholastic League in November, so it couldn’t compete for a state basketball title. But the first-year charter school could earn a national title this weekend.
It would be a mythical national title, but an impressive one.
Prime Prep is among eight boys basketball powerhouses competing in the National High School Invitational in Bethesda, Md. Prime Prep (36-1), seeded third in the tournament, opens play at 11 a.m. Thursday with a game against No. 6 seed Pompano Beach (Fla.) Blanche Ely (27-1).
“The opportunity is great for us to get to compete for some kind of championship,” said coach Ray Forsett, who left Arlington Grace Prep after last season to take over at Prime Prep, “and it’s great exposure for the kids to get to play on TV.”
The four first-round games will be on ESPNU and Friday’s semifinals will be on ESPN2. The championship game will be at noon Saturday on ESPN.
“The field is great. You’ll know really quickly where you stack up,” said Todd Simon, coach of top-seeded Findlay Prep of Henderson, Nev. “It’s like the Final Four for high school basketball.”
Findlay Prep, which is No. 1 in several national rankings, is 34-0 and has won 53 consecutive games. It won the inaugural National High School Invitational in 2009 and has competed each year since then, winning titles in 2010 and 2012.
Findlay’s roster is brimming with players who signed with big-time college programs, including 6-10 Christian Wood (UNLV) and guards Stanford Robinson (Indiana), Allerik Freeman (UCLA) and Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington).
But Prime Prep, which is No. 5 in USA Today’s national rankings and is the first Dallas-area team to play in the Invitational, is also loaded with basketball riches. Forward Jordan Mickey signed with LSU, center Karviar Shepherd signed with TCU, guard Damon Collins signed with Howard and guard Shirmane Thomas is committed to Tennessee Tech. Junior point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is one of the nation’s top recruits in the Class of 2014.
“They’ve certainly got a lot of talent,” Simon said. “All the teams have starting lineups that are stacked with Division I players.”
Prime Prep, the charter school co-founded by Deion Sanders, started the 2012-13 school year as a member of the UIL. But after the District 11-3A executive committee ruled Mickey, Shepherd, Collins and Mudiay ineligible for transferring from Grace Prep for athletic purposes, the school withdrew from the UIL.
The basketball team has since played a national schedule, including participating in showcases in Dayton, Ohio, and Phoenix. Prime Prep suffered its first loss Saturday, when it lost to Wichita (Kan.) Sunrise Christian Academy, 64-54, in Wichita.
Prime Prep didn’t play with enough passion in that game, Forsett said. But this week, he expects the players will be focused and motivated.
“They’ve been through a lot of adversity,” he said. “They’ve kind of played with a chip on their shoulder all year.”
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter at @mattwixon.
NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL INVITATIONAL
In Bethesda, Md.
11 a.m.: 3. Prime Prep vs. 6. Blanch Ely (Fla.), ESPNU
1 p.m.: 4. St. Benedict’s (NJ) vs. 5. La Lumiere (Ind.), ESPNU
3 p.m.: 2. Montverde (Fla.) vs. 7. Oak Hill (Va.), ESPNU
5 p.m.: 1. Findlay Prep (Nev.) vs. 8. Montrose Christian (Md.), ESPNU
1:30: Prime Prep/Blanch Ely winner vs. Montverde/Oak Hill winner (ESPN2)
3:30: Findlay Prep/Montrose Chr. winner vs. St. Benedict’s/La Lumiere winner (ESPN2)
1 p.m. (ESPN)