In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll write here what I told Justin Roberts about his transfer from Pike High School to Findlay Prep (Nev.) for his senior year:
I hate it.
Now, that’s from a purely personal standpoint. I enjoyed covering Roberts on the basketball court for three years at Pike, going back to his first game as a freshman in a season-opener against North Central. He was a part of Pike’s run of five consecutive sectional titles, earning a spot on the IndyStar Indiana Junior All-Star team after he averaged 16.8 points, 3.7 assists and 2.2 steals last season.
Roberts wasn’t the only defection last week. Jaren Jackson Jr., a core Junior All-Star from Park Tudor, announced he was leaving the school to attend La Lumiere, a prep school in LaPorte, for his senior year. The 6-10 Jackson is ranked No. 22 in the nation on the 247sports composite for 2017.
Those are two major transfers and two major losses for the Indiana high school basketball scene (while La Lumiere is located in the state, it is not part of the Indiana High School Athletic Association). I’m sure high school basketball will be fine and we’ll be talking about a lot of other things come March. But it does dilute the product.
Roberts wasn’t necessarily looking to leave Pike. The 6-foot guard committed to DePaul in mid-June after a strong spring with his travel team, the Spiece Indy Heat. Anthony Roberts, his father, said Findlay Prep initially reached out. So, too, did coaches from Montverde Academy in Florida and Huntington Prep in West Virginia.
“The thing was that Justin wanted to win state as a senior,” Anthony Roberts said. “He wasn’t that far from 1,000 points (for his career) and he wanted to get that, too. Marquis and Jeff Teague are friends of ours, and Justin has always wanted to follow in their footsteps at Pike.”
So why leave? Why give up a shot a state championship or a spot on the Indiana All-Star team (Jackson and Roberts were both likely to make it)? For Roberts, it came down to which program — Findlay or Pike — would best prepare him for his freshman season at DePaul. Roberts decided the prep school was a better option.
“I probably could have had a big year at Pike,” Roberts said. “It was a tough decision. I wanted to go into DePaul ready. I felt like Findlay Prep could prepare me more than any school in the country could. Being on my own could help me as well, preparing myself off the court for college.”
Roberts and Jackson join the likes of Jalen Coleman-Lands (Cathedral to La Lumiere), D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (North Central to Oak Hill Academy), A.J. Hammons (Carmel to Oak Hill Academy) and JaQuan Lyle (Evansville Bosse to Huntington Prep) as some of the more high-profile in-state transfers to prep schools in recent years.
I had a conversation with Jaren Jackson Sr., Jackson’s father, before the Junior All-Stars exhibition game against the Indiana All-Stars last month in Bloomington, which roughly mirrored Roberts’ outlook. At that point, Jackson Jr. was still considering a return to Park Tudor, but also liked the idea of daily competition against other high-major college prospects in practice.
In other words, it wasn’t increased exposure that appealed to Roberts or Jackson Jr. It was perception that Findlay Prep and La Lumiere would provide a better bridge to college basketball than their current schools.
“It’s nothing against Pike, but the level of competition is so much more,” Anthony Roberts said. “You are in practice every day with 11 other Division I players on the team. When Findlay approached us, everything just fit like a glove. There’s no ill will or feeling toward Pike at all.”
Findlay, founded in 2006 in Henderson, Nev., has a reputation as one of the country’s top prep school programs. There are 10 Findlay alums playing in the NBA, including Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Avery Bradley. Gary Trent Jr., a 6-6 standout, also announced last week that he was transferring from Apple Valley (Minn.) to Findlay Prep. Trent and Roberts were former teammates with the Indy Hoosiers’ program.
“I’ll be playing with and against guys like Gary (Trent) and P.J. Washington every day,” Roberts said. “The Big East is a tough conference. It’ll help me to compete against some of the best players in the country.”
Roberts might be right. I hope he’s right. But I still hate that he’s leaving.
>>>After a week far, far away from a gym or a field on vacation in Montana, I’m well aware that we’re closing in on the beginning of the fall seasons for 2016-17. Coaches and athletic directors, please remember to call in scores and results to (317) 444-6644 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649. Follow him on Twitter: @KyleNeddenriep.