Why Elite High School Basketball Players Flock to New England Prep Schools

New England Prep School BasketballAt a party over the holidays (in Oxford, MS mind you), boarding schools came into the conversation, then the University of Michigan (via an alumnus), then Mitch McGary; then, before you know it, I was into a quick history and explication of prep school basketball.

I shared the role it fills in the pre-collegiate space, who plays it, where it came from, and why particular boarding schools operate high-powered basketball programs.

Lucky for you, readers, you don’t have to listen to me and, lucky for me, The Hippo (a southern New Hampshire arts and activities weekly) has published an interesting, bordering on exhaustive (4500+ words), general interest piece on New Hampshire prep school Class A basketball- “NH GOT GAME: How the state’s prep schools are creating the next generation of basketball stars.”

If you’re at all interested in high level, New England, prep school basketball, I recommend this piece as required reading.

“NH GOT GAME” presents a richness through the inclusion of some historical characters (does the name Leo Papile jar the memory of any New England basketball cognoscenti?), college and prep school coaches, and players.

The piece is good for both some historical context as well as piquing interest to get folks into gyms to see the show. And, it’s not just the boys. Reporter Adam Coughlin devotes a bit of space to girls side of this not high school/not quite college industry.

Kudos to Hippo reporter Coughlin. He made some good calls and did some nice homework to cover the origins of potential college players spending a year, or more, in a Lakes Region boarding school before heading off to college and a division I collegiate basketball program.

Some article high notes

Current Lakes Region power programs Brewster Academy, Tilton School, New Hampton School, and Vermont Academy and their current star prospects all receive coverage. The depth of talent and competitiveness of Lakes Region Class A boys basketball is a marvel:

“…three schools — Brewster Academy, Tilton School and New Hampton School — have become the epicenter of high school basketball in America.

This is not hyperbole. In its 2011-2012 Five Star Basketball preseason Top 25, Sports Illustrated magazine ranked Wolfeboro’s Brewster Academy number 1, Tilton School number 3 and New Hampton School number 8, beating out schools in Las Vegas, Chicago and Texas. When Tilton plays Brewster in January, the game will be televised on ESPN. Brewster’s Mitch McGary will play his college basketball next year at the University of Michigan. He is being called the school’s biggest recruit in a decade.”(TH)

For players, the competition is intense and can serve as measuring stick:

“It is part of the natural weeding out process…Some kids rest on their laurels. Others are good but not great. Not everyone is meant to be a star” Jason Hickman, national basketball writer and editor for Maxpreps.com, explains. (TH)

Of the potential benefits, Hickman added:

“It is a tremendous avenue for kids…They can get away from home and hone their skills in the classroom and on the court.” (TH)

History, Leo Papile, then the head coach of the Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC):

“We sort of pioneered the whole thing in 1983 when we sent Eugene Miles, a great player from Dorchester, up to New Hampton.” (TH)

No special treatment:

“Maybe if they [student athletes] were treated differently…But everyone at New Hampton is held to the same standards. There are no special privileges,” New Hampton head coach Peter Hutchins says of the boarding school experience. (TH)

Getting into a prep school program:

“There is no magic wand…To succeed a kid needs academics, character and maturity,” Brewster coach Jason Smith. (TH)

A total academic, athletic, and life experience:

“For all of these guys the transition will be easier because they’re essentially playing against Division I talent every day…At a traditional high school, a guy might be 6’9” but the next tallest guys he’s going up against is 6’2”. At these schools you’re practicing against equal talent every day and definitely getting that competition in games,” Xavier University assistant coach Travis Steele told the author. (TH)

Paraphrasing, Steele Coughlin writes:

“Steele said the constant challenge against such talent is an instant reality check for players. Everyone at the Division I college level has talent. Talent isn’t enough. Hard work both on and off the court is needed for success and Steele said prep schools prepare kids for that.

Steele also said he is looking for kids who are willing to work and aren’t afraid of a challenge. He said competing against the best at a prep school shows him a kid isn’t afraid.”(TH)

Additional resources:

NH GOT GAME: How the state’s prep schools are creating the next generation of basketball stars (in magazine layout form)

Boarding schools in New England

About the Author
Brian Fisher

A product of both private and public education, Brian Fisher served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, and administrator at three different boarding schools. Brian also fills the role of Director of Development at Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School, in NH along with being a partner at AdmissionsQuest.

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