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Hillcrest Hoops: The Future of Prep Basketball

One of the fastest growing outlets in the game of basketball today is prep/post-grad academies. Elite high school players can be found at prep schools all across the US. Some of the top lottery picks in the past few NBA Drafts have made their names playing for a prep school.

These prep programs offer players an amazing platform to achieve their basketball goals. A good prep program prepares the student-athlete for college while putting them through a basketball training/lifestyle plan that will not only help them improve their game, but prepare them to have success at the collegiate level.

At a prep academy players receive intensive basketball skills + strength and conditioning training throughout the day, while also going to school like regular high school students. Players at these academies generally have 2-3 training sessions per day, receive meal plans, accommodation, transportation and most importantly exposure.

The reason young kids chose prep schools is to increase their chances of earning a college scholarship. In most cases, directors and coaches of prep programs usually have strong connections with college coaches and scouts and are able to help players receive the exposure they need to showcase their abilities to universities.

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There are some prep schools out there that started from nothing and developed a reputation for getting their players better, winning games, sending kids to NCAA Div 1 schools and in turn became nationally recognized.

However, as appealing as some prep academies can be there are several flaws in this system, or shall we say industry. Some folks have used the term “prep school” as an opportunity to make major money. In some areas it’s strictly become a business. Yeah, they go through with the whole training portion of it and make kids better, but the selling point is usually that they’ll get a player a scholarship. Which is easier said than done when it comes to prep programs.

It’s become a business. Many programs out there promise an athlete a scholarship, take thousands and thousands of dollars from their parents and then nothing happens. A dirty business. The scary thing is there are prep programs out there that sell themselves as a “prep school”, but don’t even have an education system in place which means that kids don’t actually go to school while they are attending the academy, instead they just train and play basketball all day.

We’ve seen it many times over the past decade. A player who may have missed out on a scholarship opportunity in high school is convinced that he will go to a NCAA Division 1 school if he pays a prep school $30,000. Ten months later the player and their parents have to face the cold reality: they just got ripped off.

As great as a prep program can be for a student-athlete, it is just as risky. Whenever there is an opportunity for a player to go to a prep school it needs to be approached with several precautions.

There are just so many popping up and there are too many kids out there that are being fooled into spending thousands and thousands of dollars for nothing in return. If you are an elite high school player make sure you know what you are doing when looking at a prep school. Again, there is a huge risk factor involved in going to a prep and it actually may be worth it to fly there, meet the coaches, watch some games in advance before you actually cough up over $20,000 without knowing where your going.

That being said there are several great programs in the US and some on the rise and they offer a great opportunity for a player to improve their skill and prepare for college. There is one in specific prep school though that we’v been studying and keeping our eye on for the past few months that is actually a cool story in the making.

Hillcrest Hoops, a prep academy which takes place at StarShine Academy in Phoenix, AZ may just be the next big name in prep basketball. It’s legit. More than legit. It’s going to be in that small class of prep schools that are actually doing it right.

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We spoke to some coaches at the Fab48 in Las Vegas this past month and they were all very familiar with Hillcrest, a lot of them are I’m the process of recruiting kids from there.

It hasn’t quite become mainstream yet, but just remember the name Hillcrest Hoops. In a few years they’ll have become a household name to high school basketball players, coaches and college programs all over the nation.

In their first official season at their new location in Arizona they went 21-6 playing against some of the top prep schools on the West Coast. Hillcrest has sent over 50 players to college in the past few years which includes schools in the Pac-12, SEC and Big 12.

Head recruiting coordinator and coach of the post-grad team Nick Weaver has high expectations for the program and believes it can become a national powerhouse program like Findlay Prep in Nevada.

Not a lot these programs have a coach who played basketball at a high level in the climate of today’s game. After leading the nation in scoring at Glendale Community College Weaver earned a full-ride scholarship to Cleveland State University for the 2007-08 season. He knows what he’s doing and he knows what it takes to play at the next level.

Weaver has been working hard these past few years and has landed some big time players at Hillcrest for next season. Julian Payton, son of NBA legend Gary Payton is set to suit up for Hillcrest’s national high school team next season along with a 6-11 sophomore out of Senegal named Ousmane Ndim.

Another player to watch at Hillcrest next season is Class of 2018 point guard Jaden Lee who recently received his fifth college offer. Jaden is regarded by many as one of the top PG’s in his class, he had a great showing at this year’s Fab 48. 

Class of 2018 forward Nate Graville is also having great success down in Arizona. The 6’8 small forward is an absolute stud from what we’ve heard.

As far as the national high school team goes, the exposure will be great for all the players in this program. Hillcrest had over 90 college coaches visit their practices or games this past season. This coming season they will play against powerhouses such as Oak Hill Academy, Huntington Prep, Prolific Prep and Findlay Prep. That’s the absolute best competition in the nation.

Hillcrest is currently in the process of negotiating a parntership with a major sneaker and apparel company. Director Matt Allen and Weaver have done a great job of making sure their kids receive the exposure they need to earn a scholarship, they take their training and academics very seriously so this program is bound to have great success for years to come no matter what sneaker they wear. This partnership with one of the major sneaker companies is really just a cherry on top of everything and will elevate their brand and exposure to new heights.

This fall marks the beginning of what will go down as arguably the most important season in the history of Hillcrest Hoops. They have the talent, their gaining recognition and now their set to compete against some of the top schools on West Coast. If they have the success they had this past season and continue to send kids to NCAA Div 1 schools, you’ll be hearing their name a lot more this time next year.


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