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When the Blackhawks lost the 4A state basketball championship game to Little Rock Baptist Prep a couple of years ago, a big reason was the presence of 7'3" center Conner Vanover.

Vanover was a junior at the time and after helping his school to a repeat state title, he decided to leave his school and enroll at Findlay Prep, a sort of academy in Las Vegas, Nev. By that I mean, Findley Prep was really just a basketball team living in a big house owned by Cliff Findlay who owned a very big car dealership in Vegas.

Findlay Prep got around the "educational" aspects by having their athletes enroll in a nearby school, Henderson International Academy, to get their high school credits. This freed them up to tour the nation, playing in big, prestigious tournaments from coast to coast.

Findley was successful, winning three of four national championships starting out. Seventeen NBA players went through Findley and 70 former players earned NCAA Division 1 scholarships. Vanover enrolled his senior season, was going to play for Memphis after graduating for but switched to sign with California where he got a little playing time as a Bear.

Findley Prep was in the news this last week after it was announced that the "school" was no more. It appears that Henderson International wanted no more of Findley's athletes and without some way to legitimize their team, Findley was out of business.

Vanover, the former Baptist Prep player, is back in the news in Arkansas as he announced his decision to transfer to Arkansas to play for the Razorbacks where he will be required to sit out one season. The lanky center will have played for four schools in four years. This kind of storyline that has been cropping up more often as athletes go searching for the their best shot at becoming professional basketball players.

Sports Illustrated lamented the demise of Findley Prep, feeling that Findley has helped "high school basketball evolve." Other sports pundits have expressed the belief that Findley "made high school basketball more relevant."

Am I missing something here? How has high school basketball "evolved" and is that a good thing? As far as relevance goes, I have never heard of a good high school coach listing his team's goals for year that included relevance. I have heard "be more focused," "display better sportsmanship," "strive to be better teammates," "be better conditioned," etc., but I have never heard a coach say "OK boys, lets get out there and be more relevant."

I truly believe the environment that produces that traveling all-star basketball teams that masquerade as schools is making the sport entirely irrelevant. Winning basketball games is fun and all, but it is not the only or even the most important goal. The most important goal is to build a team, be a teammate and learn to work with other people for common goals. Very few athletes go on to play in the NBA, and there are millions of kids playing basketball who will need to have skills in other areas to make a life for themselves.

Playing on a high school sports team gives kids a chance to represent something bigger than him or herself. They represent their teammates, their school and the community from which they came. In ways large and small, playing team sports in a positive, well structured program helps produce something the country is in sore need of, that being productive citizens.

Athletes who are only concerned with their own personal success make for poor citizens. Athletes who have sacrificed, worked hard, striven to be leaders on and off the field, and who have conducted themselves in a way that makes their friends, parents and the community at large feel proud, those are the kids who will be good citizens.

There is a biblical quote that you hear from time to time that goes "the first shall be last, and the last shall be first."

Athletic programs that create selfish, narcissistic athletes will never have the impact of programs that teach their charges that if you build your character, master and control your physicality, and work for the good of the team in everything you do, the horizons are limitless.


Editor's note: John McGee, an award-winning columnist, sports writer and art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, writes a regular sports column for The Times. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted through The Times at

Sports on 07/03/2019

Print Headline: High school sports turning too professional?

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