Chicago is the pulse of high school basketball by virtue of history, pedigree and transcendent individual stars such as Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker and next-generation players Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander.
Those players came out of traditional high school programs.
Now a group of businessmen, former athletes and entrepreneurs have announced an ambitious project to launch a basketball-oriented private high school with the stated purpose of creating “the future leaders of the basketball economy.”
A Chicago equivalent of an Oak Hill Academy, Va. or La Lumiere, Ind., the Chicago Basketball Academy is the genesis of former Bulls center and coach Bill Cartwright, listed as the president, and ex-Hyde Park star Damond L. Williams, who conceived the idea of the private, co-ed school two years ago.
“Chicago, we have lift-off,” the school’s website announced. It further stated that its academic mission is to combine “a traditional core curriculum with sport-related science, technology, and business electives.”
The group has commissioned a Chicago architectural firm to initiate plans for a building, yet questions about the size, location, costs, admission into the IHSA and other logistics remain under wraps.
This is not the first school of its type.
After squabbling with Public League executives and the IHSA about the eligibility of international transfer students, former Julian coach Loren Jackson founded the Boys to Men Math & English Academy on the Southwest Side in 2005. The small, private school featured many of Jackson’s players at Julian, such as Mac Koshwal and Jeremiah Kelly, who later played at DePaul. The greatest success story was Craig Brackins, a first-round draft choice of the Philadelphia 76ers who now plays in Poland.
Jackson has said the school lost money and a change in NCAA eligibility accreditation forced its closure in 2007.
The Chicago Basketball Academy will be a hybrid, of sorts, merging aspects of the traditional high school, club basketball and private academies, similar to IMG, Fla., where Jackson coaches.
Others are pessimistic about the school’s ability to attract top-flight local talent.
“I think they’re going to have a hard time attracting the better prospects of Chicago,” said Mike Irvin, the CEO of the prominent club program, the Mac Irvin Fire. “If you’re a high-level basketball player who’s already going to Morgan Park, Simeon or Young, you’re getting exposure across the country, and you’re getting the best basketball, along with a school system. Parents are going to be a hard attraction to get local kids to that school.’’
Efforts to reach Williams and Cartwright for comment were unsuccessful.