The post-graduate program for players who were not heavily recruited out of high school has moved to Johnson City with practices at the Lifestyle Fitness and games scheduled at Carver Rec.
With the move and close proximity to ETSU, the team plans to change its name to University Academy in the future, according to founder Patrick Grayson.
Bristol Prep opened its season Friday night with a 96-61 defeat at Oak Hill (Va.) Academy. Cameron Thomas, a five-star recruit who has visited LSU, Auburn, N.C State and UCLA, had 45 points for Oak Hill.
Coyleone Girton, a 6-foot-2 guard from Louisville, led Bristol Prep in the loss.
Former Maryville College assistant Jamaal Hickman, whose family is from Kingsport, serves as the head coach for the Avengers. Hickman sees a couple of areas where players, who come from as far away as Maine, Miami and even the Bahamas, are helped through the program
“We have four or five guys who had (college) offers and didn’t have to come to post-graduate school,” said Hickman, a former Gatlinburg-Pittman coach. “Strength-wise, they needed to work on their bodies and they get the exposure of being able to play at another level. They learn how to practice better.
“If you’ve been the man at your practice, then you have to come in here and compete every day, there is a difference. Sometimes it can get frustrating when somebody is at you every day. Our practice is intense and it’s preparing them for college in that aspect.”
The team’s online schedule includes noted prep schools like Fork Union, Massanutten, Hargrave Military and IMG Academy. It also has Union College, Roane State, Walters State and the Navy junior varsity team listed.
According to Grayson, there are 13 Bristol Prep guys currently playing college ball, including James Jordan, who committed to Kent State in September.
Another player with dreams of playing at the next level is Andrew Sharpe, a 6-foot-3 guard who played on Gate City’s 2018 state championship team. He said playing with Bristol Prep has given him extra exposure.
“I didn’t have any offers after high school,” Sharpe said. “I decided to continue my education through basketball and I decided to come here to get some offers. It’s helped a lot, playing the best prep schools like Oak Hill, IMG and Massanutten. I’ve gotten 2-3 JUCO offers that I didn’t have and some NAIA offers. I wouldn’t have had those if I hadn’t come to prep school.”