Why Prime Prep Closing Would Be Good News for its Remaining Star Athletes
Whether Prime Prep manages to stay open or not doesn't matter to Emmanuel Mudiay. The kid who would have been king, the explosive, rangy point guard, is not going to SMU, whether he would have been eligible to play for the Mustangs or not. Athletic apparel company Under Armour -- which sponsors both Prime Prep and Mo Williams Elite, Mudiay's AAU summer team -- is working behind the scenes to secure his first pro contract, a move that removes any doubt as to his amateur status.
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Whether Mudiay is bypassing Moody Madness because he had fears about his potential academic eligibility, because, as he and his family have said, he wants to help his mother financially or, in the most likely scenario, because of some combination of the two, his high school alma mater's closing isn't going to have any further effect on his basketball future.
The same can't be said for Mudiay's star teammate, Terrance Ferguson.
Ferguson is a rising junior, scheduled to graduate in the spring of 2016. The Rivals recruiting service rates the shooting guard as the 10th best player in the country and reports that he's received scholarship offers from most of the Big 12. Before Prime Prep's potential closure, he was slated to be joined by fellow junior Mark Vital, a Baylor-committed small forward also in Rivals' top 50 who had agreed to transfer to Prime Prep from New Orleans for the 2014-2015 school year.
Now the pair's future is uncertain, but it seems obvious that getting away from Prime Prep would be best for their futures. Should the school not stay open, neither will face further participation in the high school's academic curriculum, something that's caused problems for the school's graduates in the past.
"When you're starting an academy for athletes and your solution for how to teach courses is to purchase a curriculum, especially a non-traditional curriculum," John Infante, an NCAA compliance expert says, "then you're going to open yourself to additional scrutiny from the NCAA."
Since its inception, Prime Prep has relied on Internet-based curricula, such as the VSchoolz service.
"The NCAA has this problem where more and more students are taking [the online classes] and you can't just say you've got to sit in a classroom to get credit," Infante says, "but you have these horror stories that the eligibility center will show you from a few years ago where the course logs from an online math course would show that a kid received a semester of algebra credit for 15 minutes of being logged into the program."
Combined with the administrative dysfunction going on at Prime Prep and the school's athletic priorities, the school's non-traditional teaching makes the fact that the school is under NCAA review unsurprising, Infante says.
As long as Ferguson and Vital end up at a school that isn't under NCAA review and has an NCAA-approved core course list, the pair will likely have an easier time starting their college careers. There will be fewer questions about the classes they've taken, and fewer classes that they might have to make up in the chase for eligibility. If the school is closed, things could be even easier, because it could become harder for the NCAA to obtain that documentation. That would make the organization more likely to approve an initial eligibility waiver for the players.
"When you have this extended review," Infante says, "you need a lot of extra documentation from the school."