Marvin Bagley III had 51 points and 17 rebounds for Hillcrest Prep in a game on Monday.
On Wednesday, his father Marvin Jr., said he was taking Marvin and his other son, Marcus, an eighth-grade guard, out of Hillcrest, because of “the negativity following the program.”
In the past two weeks, the start-up national basketball high school program saw the NCAA visit its academic side and its spot on the national map diminished, which ultimately led to Bagley Jr., informing athletic director Matt Allen on Wednesday that he and his family were leaving the program.
“We made a thousand percent effort to stay loyal to the state of Arizona,” Bagley Jr., said. “We tried everything we could to get that national stage and opportunity. It just didn’t work out. We don’t see it happening.”
Bagley Jr., said he doesn’t yet know where Marvin and Marcus will play.
“We just needed immediate separation from that negative crowd,” he said.
The tipping point came Wednesday when Bagley Jr., found out the Hoophall Classic was changing Hillcrest’s January opponent in Springfield, Mass. Hillcrest will not be part of ESPN’s national TV coverage against 7-foot-1 senior Thon Maker and Athlete Institute in Canada.
Bagley III, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, is rated by ESPN as the No. 1 player in the country. He was azcentral sports’ Player of the Year as a freshman after helping Tempe Corona del Sol capture a fourth consecutive Division I basketball title last season. He averaged 19.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 2.3 assists.
DeAndre Ayton, a 7-1 junior who is considered the top 2017 player in the nation, left Balboa City School in San Diego this fall to join Bagley III at Hillcrest.
Allen said he will meet with Ayton to discuss his future.
Bagley Jr., also mentioned that Hillcrest is not nationally ranked because it doesn’t play high school teams.
According to USA TODAY, the standard is at least 20 percent of a team’s games be played against high schools and that a school be a member of a state association, even as an affiliate member, such as Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, Montverde Prep (Florida) or Oak Hill Academy (Virginia).
“Ineligible to be ranked by USA TODAY, that’s big in my opinion,” Bagley Jr. said. “When ESPN refused to play your team, especially when ESPN has Marvin ranked Number 1 (in 2018 class) and Deandre Number 1 (in 2017 class), and they won’t play them on TV, that’s really bad.”
Hoophall Classic tournament director Greg Procino said recent negative reports on Hillcrest prompted the change.
“It came to a point based on the stories that have been written, there wasn’t a level of comfort from the television side to put them up on the air,” Procino said. “It’s similar to other start-up programs like Hillcrest. It was the same process used for Findlay Prep and Huntington Prep. They were not on ESPN their first year.”
ESPN has yet to release its television schedule for the Hoophall Classic. ESPN could not be reached for comment.
Procino acknowledged the game between Hillcrest and Athlete Institute was in the works.
“But there wasn’t a comfort level in Year One, especially knowing the top players are both underclassmen,” Procino said. “The invitation to Hillcrest still is on the table. They’re welcome to play here. A game is lined up. It would be a good thing for their program, as well.”
Procino said that Hillcrest still is set to play Advanced Prep International from Texas on Dec.19 at Scottsdale Chaparral High in Hoophall West.
Allen said he will speak to Nike, which gave Hillcrest a sponsorship after Bagley III came on board. Hillcrest also has a post-grad team.
Findlay Prep dropped Hillcrest from its schedule after Ayton joined Hillcrest.
Bagley Jr., also was disappointed that Hillcrest wasn’t invited to the big national high school tournament in April that is sponsored by Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“We’re trying to play for a national championship,” Bagley Jr., said. “We feel we don’t have that opportunity.
“I spoke with a head coaches from other top schools, and they said they were getting a lot of pressure to drop Hillcrest. Everything we went there for, it’s impossible.”
Two weeks ago, the NCAA visited Starshine Academy, the school associated with the basketball program that is located in central Phoenix, to make sure the players were in a building with teachers and the proper accredited courses.
Allen said that the NCAA is supposed to finish its report in the next two weeks, which will include either approval of academics, an extended review or denial of accreditation.
An extended review requires all of the players’ academic work to be submitted to the NCAA for review.
After the NCAA came through, Bagley Jr., said he withdrew his sons from Starshine and put them in an online program that he said he found on the NCAA website.
Bagley said he could have lived with “the NCAA thing.”
Allen said he feels Hillcrest can survive on its post-grad program alone.
“We had big dreams with the national high school team,” he said. “There are hiccups. But we’re moving forward.”