Aspire Basketball Academy leaving AZ after one season


Once again, Hillcrest Academy is the only game in town – for parents looking for an elite basketball program for their exceptionally-talented high school-age athlete.

Aspire Basketball Academy has moved on to greener pastures.  Actually, to the blue grass state of Kentucky.

Aspire, which announced just last year about this time that it was opening a school to house a national high school team that would supposedly attract players from all over the country and around the world, has decided that north Scottsdale was the wrong place to be setting up housekeeping.

One reason might have been the competition it was facing in its own backyard.  Hillcrest, which started in time for the 20015-16 season, was already established, setting up in south Phoenix through its academic partnership with Precision High, which provides NCAA-certified coursework for its players.

Hillcrest’s national team won this year’s Grind Session, playing against the top high school teams in the nation, and by virtue of that performance and a 33-6 overall record, earned this year’s national prep title.  Aspire also competed in the Grind Session, which is a national high school basketball circuit that begins in November and features a core group of 16 of the nation’s top prep teams.

In Louisville, however, Aspire won’t have to worry about measuring up to a neighboring program.  It will be the first major prep-school program in Kentucky that will focus on attracting top basketball talent from around the nation.  In its one season in Arizona, Aspire fielded a national team and a post-graduate team, just as Hillcrest does.  Next season in Kentucky Aspire will focus on just building a national team.

Aspire’s departure may actually turn out to be a boost for Hillcrest since it’s likely that not all of the players from last season will want to make the move to Kentucky and would be able to consider staying in AZ and playing for Hillcrest.  Those who do leave will be doing their academic studying at DeSales High School in Louisville.

During its first and only season in Arizona, Aspire had partnered with Bella Vista College Prep, a K-12 private school in north Scottsdale.

Hillcrest’s head coach Kyle Weaver has a major recruiting job on his hands this off-season.  He loses point guard Virschon Cotton and wing Alfred Hollins to graduation.  But his biggest loss will be playing for University of Arizona next season.  DeAndre Ayton, a dominating 7-foot presence who was the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2017, averaged 28 points and 18 rebounds a game last season.

The year before, Hillcrest lost Marvin Bagley III after its inaugural season when that 7-footer transferred to a California school.  Bagley was the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2018.