It didn’t take long for people in and around Fort Wayne to want to know more about Elevation Prep.
The brand new prep school and post graduate, the brainchild of Cody Henson, earned a lot of attention earlier this week.
It took one Twitter announcement: the commitment of all-area player Michael Eley, now formerly of Snider High School, and Elevation Prep became on the tip of the tongues of the local basketball community. Appear out of nowhere as an upstart school with a fall 2020 start and instantly bring in an Indiana Junior All-Star with Division I offers? That will open some eyes and mouths.
For Henson, who has recently spent time with Lincoln Academy in Georgia, this was a plan mentally many years in the making. At the outset of 2020, he started to take those plans to the next level. His mind frame makes total sense. In Indiana, where we bill ourselves as the Mecca of hoops, there is just one legit high school level prep school: LaLumiere in LaPorte.
“I sit down with people all of the time and talk to them and they question, ‘why do we only have one school and we are supposed to be the motherland, so to say, of basketball?’ And we’ve had the debate, are we too old school?” Henson said. “It has been on my heart and tugging on me that hey, I want to bring this back to the area. I have watched a ton of guys from our state leave our state.”
Henson said that keeping state talent local is something that pushes him, an opportunity that many didn’t have with legit prep schools spacing out to Louisville or Cleveland if players wanted to stay in the Midwest.
Elevation Prep will not only add the high school level, but also a post graduate program; another area lacking in the state. Area players have succeeded on post grad levels in recent years, including Grady Eifert at Don Bosco in Crown Point before a successful career at Purdue. Outside the Huddle’s 2019-2020 Co-Player of the Year Charlie Yoder is also planning a post grad year. So adding one more centrally located makes sense to Henson, It makes sense to me too.
“There are a ton of kids that need another year of development skill wise, academically,” Henson said. “We will be centrally located by Chicago, South Bend, Dayton, Cincinnati. It just makes a lot of sense from that standpoint.”
The academic element will be a huge question for skeptics of the prep school life. That element will be provided in a partnership with Lakewood Park Christian, with the school providing virtual courses for the players.
“The first thing I wanted to hammer down was the education piece, where I was going to get my kids the quality education and also one that would be flexible. We are going to have high-level athletes, we are going to be getting invited to events around the country. There is going to be a potential week there will be a Thursday, Friday, Saturday event that we are going to play in,” Henson said. “Can we have coursework that is going to be full and work with the guys even if they are not physically in the classroom?”
The relationship with Lakewood Park has raised some questions on social media. The academic partnership and let’s face it, similar color scheme, have led some to believe there is a deeper relationship than there actually is.
“Elevation Prep is its own entity. We are only supplying their online coursework. They do not attend our school and will not be part of our programs,” Lakewood Park commented to Outside the Huddle through its athletic director, Bobby Childs.
Henson says that he wanted to put himself in his players’ shoes when determining the education standpoint. Classes will focus on nothing but NCAA-essential classes and won’t spend time outside of those pure academic courses, giving them more time in the gym working on their game. The Elevation Prep class program will be virtual but the school will have an academic advisor that will sit in with the 14 players planned for the high school team and assist them with any course work they need help with.
The post grad education plan comes in two academic pieces, Henson said. First, they may need assistance with SAT/ACT prep and will be enrolled in a prep class so they can take between 2-4 tests to get a required score. Other post grad kids may not need that prep and will be enrolled in area college courses online under 12 credit hours. A player at the post grad can’t be a “full time” student in college or their eligibility clock would start with the NCAA. This would allow post grad players to get between 12-18 credit hours in two semesters with Elevation Prep.
All of the education elements and NCAA rules are tough to nail down. There is no shortage of little rules that a place like Elevation Prep has to learn, respect and deal with on a daily basis. Henson has a huge undertaking in making sure that he and others he surrounds himself with at Elevation Prep don’t slip up. It can cause a lot of stress in consuming so much critical information.
“It has been a good process from the standpoint it is keeping me educated and keeping me on top of things,” Henson said. “I’m a ‘do it by the book’ guy. I am not trying to cut corners. I am not trying to have any scandals. I want it straight by the book, not only for myself and the program, but that is teaching the kids quality morals and character; you do things by the book and you will reap the benefit of that. Keeping myself educated is keeping the kids educated too.”
The teams will play home games at Concordia Seminary and finding space for home basketball games isn’t always easy. The plan is to play LaLumiere, Spire (Cleveland, OH) and Aspire (Louisville, KY), among other prep schools. The Hawks will play in the Governor’s Challenge in Maryland around Christmas. Elevation will also try to work with the IHSAA so they can play high school teams in the state of Indiana. Henson will serve as the head coach for the high school program with other coaching hires coming, he says. Elevation Prep is in line to hire a coach for their post graduate program with Division I playing experience and who has coached at college and prep school levels, Henson told OTH. That team is already planning to play in a Post Grad/Junior College Jamboree in Atlanta on October 3. The post grad team will be able to play prep high schools, post grads, JUCO teams and D2 and NAIA junior varsity teams.
“They get a nice combination of playing the prep side but they get to play the college side too,” Henson said. “That is nice from a development standpoint but it is also nice from a recruiting standpoint. You may go play one of those colleges and have a really good game. And if you did it against their school, they are more accessible to recruit you because they’ve just seen you physically.”
Bringing in Eley as the first rostered player for the high school team certainly will raise awareness locally and statewide instantly. And let’s face the facts, it already has. There is a reason why I field phone calls and text messages daily right now with people wanting to know exactly what Elevation Prep means. It will certainly interest fans in the area and players alike looking for other opportunities. How Eley plays and/or thrives this coming season will be important to if Elevation Prep makes sense for local players to look into.
Henson has other players on his radar from outside the area, but nothing 100 percent concrete yet for him to announce.
The reality is this: skepticism will exist about Elevation Prep for some time. That isn’t the fault of Henson’s at all. Talking to him, he certainly seems to have his ducks in a row. Other prep schools around the country have given new prep schools a bad name. Those so-called ‘pop up preps’ have been a split of good and bad, but the attention always goes to the bad more than the good. Some don’t focus on the academic component and others have been a big money grab, charging families outrageous pricing only to disappear within two or three years with the pockets of their operators full. Henson wants to dispel those preconceived notions as quickly as possible with how he is structuring Elevation Prep.
Henson isn’t looking for Elevation Prep to exist for two or three years and then close the doors like some prep schools nationwide have done. Henson wants Elevation Prep to be far different with kids having the chance to expand their game and expand their exposure to college coaches while still getting a quality education.
“This is not a quick come up. This is something I want to last for a long, long time even past myself. I want things done correctly because it is instilling in the kids the correct morals and values we are going to preach every day on the court,” Henson said.
More on Spire can be found at theelevationprep.com
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