In the fall of 2015, AAUConnect-New York International Academy began operations in Endicott with a contingent of about a dozen recruits, many lured by a self-described elite program that boasted of a number one ranking with connections to Division I college coaches.
In fact, according to legal documents and testimony delivered in a two-day court hearing, the claims were either outright lies or wholly fabricated.
The conditions under which program participants labored are disquieting, including players paying thousands of dollars, and promised gourmet meals, being served uncooked chicken in a fruit fly-infested kitchen. This was just one of the several indignities they were subjected to over the course of a program a former coach called nothing but “a money grab” by its owners.
Now, after dozens of starry-eyed young men and their families were taken in by the owners, the state Attorney General is attempting to collect refunds for those who were promised top-notch coaching and academic services from an established program but received nothing but a training and scholastic regimen shoddily run, at best.
For almost two years the so-called prep school ran under the radar until the hue and cry from dissatisfied players and their parents reached the ears of the state Attorney General.
Now, the state’s top law enforcement official is trying to shut it down, characterizing it as a huge fraud perpetrated on young men only looking to pursue their dream of being Division I scholarship basketball recruits.
From 2015 through 2017, AAUConnect was run out of the former Henry B. Endicott school in Endicott. Though players were promised “dorm-like” living arrangements, actual housing arrangement were in run-down, often foul-smelling apartments.
As the school attempted to recruit players, prospective participants were shown a hotel on Harry L Drive, near the mall and a grocery. They were told games and practices would be scheduled at the Floyd L. Maines Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
Accommodations were not anything like promised in the first year. Instead, players were housed in the Red Carpet Inn, across from En-Joie Golf Course in Endicott, where conditions were less than desirable, and the promised kitchen facilities were nowhere to be found. The second year, again promised dorm-like facilities, the players were scattered between two apartment complexes, neither of which were in close proximity to either practice gyms or groceries.
Following the firing of a cook one month into the 2017-2018 program, pizza from Nirchi’s and takeout from Tony’s and Phil’s Chicken House were the staples. Bagels and cereal were offered in the morning.
Practices were at local church gymnasiums. Daily weight training was rare or non-existent, program participants said.
Owners in absentia
Chris Bevin, a former Susquehanna High School basketball player, and Hazel Ward, his significant other, own the program. For the most part they have been absent, said to be living at an undisclosed location overseas, sometimes said to be the Canary Islands or other foreign locales thousands of miles for their school. Instead, they have their coaches or an administrator carry out their directives.