Sierra Canyon vs. Findlay Prep?

A CIF member program has never played prep basketball academy Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), but state No. 1 Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth could meet the Pilots in the semifinals of the upcoming Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions on Friday 13th. Sierra Canyon reportedly will be able to play the Pilots at this event.

Findlay Prep, a basketball-academy whose home base is the Henderson International School in Nevada, has not ever played a CIF member school in boys basketball since becoming a four-year program in 2008-09 — but it could happen this Friday the 13th.

State No. 1 Sierra Canyon, which is currently ranked No. 6 in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings, is slated to participate in the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Mo. The field also includes FAB 50 No. 2 Memphis East (Tenn.), No. 3 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.), No. 7 Findlay Prep, and No. 37 Greenforest Christian Academy (Decatur, Ga.). If the eight-team bracket goes to form, the Trailblazers are scheduled to face Findlay Prep, with Montverde Academy and Memphis East meeting for a third time this season in the other TOC semifinal. Regardless of whom advances in the winner’s bracket, the two Friday semifinal games and the Saturday title game will be televised by the CBS Sports Network.

According to Sierra Canyon head coach Ty Nichols, he verified with the CIF office that his program can play Findlay Prep after Cal-Hi Sports spoke to him about the TOC bracket. According to the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association website, the Pilots are full members of the NIAA even though the basketball players on the team are the only students on campus in grades 9-12. When the Pilots first became eligible for the FAB 50 as a program that didn’t accept post-graduates on its roster, there were other high-school aged students on campus but Findlay Prep was not a full-fledged member then.

Sierra Canyon’s green light is interesting news in light of recent reports IMG Academy of Bradenton, Fla., was discussed at a recent CIF commissioners meeting in Sacramento. IMG Academy has a nationally ranked football program and next year the team will be bolstered by at least two transfers from California, including highly-regarded T.J. Pledger, who played last season at Chaminade of West Hills. CIF officials have expressed concern about the recruitment of its student-athletes from programs such as IMG Academy. Its basketball program is currently ranked No. 4 in the country and is eligible for the FAB 50 because it is listed on the FHSAA independent programs assignment list and can play member schools. It is not against association rules for IMG Academy to recruit athletes from outside of Florida. IMG’s basketball roster currently doesn’t have any Californians.

During the 2009-10 season, Findlay Prep was forced to the loser’s bracket of the City of Palms Tournament in Florida because state power L.A. Westchester was in the bracket. Back then, CIF members and Georgia member programs were not allowed to play the Pilots. There has been some instances were CIF programs weren’t allowed to play Oak Hill Academy of Virginia, but that program has had no issues in recent seasons. Oak Hill plays state No. 2 Chino Hills and No. 8 Foothills Christian of El Cajon at this year’s Nike Extravaganza.

There has been inconsistencies over the years as to whom CIF member programs can play in hoops, but it looks like one day the separation between high school programs and sports academy-type programs will be clear. When that happens, the two won’t likely be playing each other around the country. Until then, however, some state association members will be able to play programs such as Findlay Prep and some won’t because membership bylaws and the membership entry process is vastly different across state lines. Some state associations don’t acknowledge the academy-type programs within its borders. Regardless of the level of acknowledgement, the reality is a majority of the nation’s top high school basketball prospects don’t play at public schools.

Of the top 100 prospects in the latest national Hoop Scoop player rankings, 39 play at public schools. Will nearly all of the nation’s elite prospects play at private schools or academy-type programs in near future? The trend certainly points that way, but the ability for a public school to dominate the national landscape as Chino Hills did last year still exists because one or two great players make a big difference in boys basketball.

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