First choice for charters, second (or third) chance for players

The Washington Post's Alan Goldenbach goes behind the scenes with the IDEA Public Charter School girls' basketball team, which plays its games in a "COSTCO-like" atmosphere and appears to be missing a true high school sports experience.
By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 18, 2010; 9:00 PM

Check out at the boys' basketball rosters for Friendship Collegiate and the Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers and the number of transfers on each team is striking. Nearly all of the players on both rosters started their high school careers elsewhere before transferring to one of the two D.C. public charter schools.

"We're cleaning up, we're the last stop," KIMA Coach Levet Brown said. "Do you think I could get a Eugene McCrory if he was doing well somewhere else?"

Indeed, McCrory -- who has committed to play for Seton Hall and was selected to play in the Capital Classic -- attended C.H. Flowers and Parkdale in Prince George's County and Paul VI Catholic in Fairfax during his first three years of high school.

But after arriving at KIMA, in Northwest Washington, McCrory set about improving his academic performance. He enrolled in night school at Theodore Roosevelt. He began taking courses online.

"We sat down and told him we thought he could get out in one year and we told him the path he had to take," Brown said. "He's got a lot on his plate."

So far, McCrory believes he is performing better in the classroom, which would be consistent with his teammates and the players at Friendship Collegiate.

Of course, with so many players who previously struggled academically now regularly making the honor roll, there are skeptics. Friendship Collegiate Coach Clinton Crouch said he often hears critics suggest the curriculum is easy or that grades are given to players.

"I invite anyone to come in and see what we do on a daily basis," Crouch said. "Nothing is given to these kids, everything is earned. I'll never throw another school under the bus, but there are kids who come in here and are surprised they have to do their own work and that I won't go to a teacher at the ninth hour about raising their grades."

Friendship senior forward DeVonte Peterson is among those who improved academically. He had been kicked out of Carroll in his third year at that Northeast private school. After moving in with an aunt in the District to claim her address when enrolling at Friendship, he repeated his junior year now has earned a $50,000 Achievers Scholarship from the D.C. College Success Foundation. Peterson is president of the more than 200 Achievers Scholarship recipients in the District.

"A lot of times, we get leftovers who go to DeMatha, Gonzaga, McNamara first and it may not work out for whatever reason and they find a home here," Crouch said. "A lot of kids are second-chance kids looking for a change in environment. Not to say this is easier than where they left, but after you've fallen maybe the second time around your decision-making is much better."

For Friendship senior guard Brandon Young and his mother, there are no regrets. He left Randallstown High in suburban Baltimore to move in with Crouch and attend Friendship. His grades have improved and in the fall he signed a letter-of-intent to play for DePaul.

Croach and Young "had to do a lot of convincing to let me let him go away," Tracey Bailey said. "Of course, I went to Coach Crouch and his wife and sat down and checked off his background. I made sure all his credentials were right. I couldn't put my child in better hands than Coach Crouch and his wife. He can't go wrong. He goes to school with the coach, he goes home with the coach. He is always with the coach.

"The rest is history. It's the best move we ever could have made."

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