Recruits From Dubious Prep Schools Allowed To Play Next Season

By Mark Schlabach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 6, 2006

Most top recruits who attended prep schools with strong basketball teams but reportedly questionable academic credentials will be allowed to play in college next season, the NCAA announced yesterday.

The NCAA said 22 prep schools, including powerhouses such as Oak Hill Academy and Fork Union Military Academy, will be subject to future review of their academic integrity, and individual athletes still might have their transcripts scrutinized for irregularities.

"We completed what we believed to be a fair and comprehensive process," said Kevin Lennon, the NCAA vice president for membership services. "We had access to material that was extremely helpful in producing an honest evaluation of the schools. We're about fairness and we've tried to be fair throughout this process."

The NCAA said it reviewed more than 100 schools after reports in The Washington Post and other media outlets questioned whether some prep schools were little more than "diploma mills," designed solely to help athletes gain NCAA certification by its Clearinghouse, which approves the transcripts of prospective student-athletes.

The NCAA did strip 16 institutions of Clearinghouse approval yesterday. But only three -- North Atlanta Prep in Covington, Ga.; Christopher Robin Academy in Springfield Gardens, N.Y.; and Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C. -- appear to have top-level athletes. Some of the schools on the list no longer exist, don't have athletic teams or are part of juvenile detention programs.

Yesterday's announcement was a major victory for Lutheran Christian Academy in Philadelphia. The Post reported in February that Lutheran Christian, which sent players to Georgetown and George Washington, was operated out of a community center, has no textbooks and has only one full-time employee, basketball coach Darryl Schofield, a former sanitation worker with no college degree.

Schofield and Reginald Holder, who identified himself as Lutheran Christian's principal, did not return telephone calls seeking comment yesterday.

Holder had threatened legal action if the NCAA did not approve the school's transcripts. The school had a pair of prominent seniors: center Theo Davis orally committed to Gonzaga and wing Malik Perry signed with Iowa.

Yesterday, one former Lutheran player said he was surprised by the NCAA's decision.

"Academically, it was a joke," said guard Joseph Wilson of Alpharetta, Ga., who said he spent six months last year enrolled at Lutheran. "I left the school early because I realized it was bull."

Lutheran Christian is among the 22 schools subject to further review. They include such successful teams as Bridgton Academy in Maine, Laurinburg Institute and Mount Zion Academy in North Carolina, and Fork Union and Oak Hill academies in Virginia.

"It's unbelievable to me," Oak Hill basketball coach Steve Smith said. "The NCAA never even came to our school. There's not even a school at [Lutheran Christian's] address and we are on the same list? The NCAA says they're going to crack down? It is beyond all comprehension.

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