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OT: Redemtion Christian Academy in Troy

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Admittedly I don't know too much about this place other than Lamar Odom went there. Interesting story on CBS Sportsline about it.


Link to article


Players burned by prep school's cash-for-transcript policy

Oct. 25, 2005

By Gregg Doyel

CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer

Tell Gregg your opinion!


Rainier Rickards went to Redemption Christian Academy in upstate New York to get an education and play basketball. He didn't go there to haggle over his high school transcript. He didn't go there to bake cookies.


"Cookies, pies, bread, banana nut loaf -- you name it," Rickards said. "And if you weren't baking that stuff, you were selling it. I'd be outside at Wal-Mart from nine in the morning to six at night."


With prep schools popping up all over the country, drawing increasingly skeptical interest from the NCAA, 26-year-old Redemption Christian rates among the most peculiar, the most controversial and -- several people told CBS SportsLine.com -- the most damaging. Coaches from five schools in the Big East and Atlantic 10 told SportsLine.com that they refuse to recruit players from Redemption.


"I'd love for someone to expose those guys," said Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) High athletics director Pete Sheehan. "It's criminal what they're doing to kids."


Ex-Redemption players describe the RCA basketball program as a thinly veiled fund-raising arm of the school, with players having to cook, package and sell bakery goods -- usually outdoors, sometimes door-to-door.


Players told SportsLine.com they had a sales quota -- ranging from $200 to $400 a week -- and at the end of the year were charged the difference before getting their transcript. No money? No transcript. And for a college basketball prospect, a transcript is gold. Without one, the player cannot prove to the NCAA that he earned the credits necessary to qualify. Without one, it's like the year at Redemption never happened.


Rickards told SportsLine.com that he could have graduated in June but, because he couldn't afford to pay for his transcript, he has to attend another prep school this year. He has committed to play for St. Francis (N.Y.) in the Northeast Conference.


"I could be in college right now, but my mom didn't have the money for my transcript," he said. "I don't feel I should be giving them money anyway. I made money all year (selling cookies and cakes). My quota was $400 a week, but I didn't do good in the middle of the year. I'm anemic and diabetic, so some weeks I could only sell $200 and they got mad at me. I couldn't take it, so I left."


Rickards says he was charged $1,500 for his transcript, and he apparently got off easy. The mother of ex-UConn recruit Will Harris says she was asked for $7,000 for his transcript. The guardian of Yamar Diene, who went on to play for Rice, says he was asked for $5,000.


The founder, principal and coach at RCA, Elder John Massey Jr., doesn't dispute the main facts. Yes, he says, players spend hours each week cooking and/or selling baked goods. Yes, they have a quota. Yes, transcripts are withheld until students fulfill their financial obligations. But he says RCA is doing nothing illegal. The cost of tuition is $15,000, Massey said, and all RCA students "have to earn their way here."


"We don't ask or recruit kids to come to our school," Massey said. "They come to us. They sign a statement of agreement, and their parents agree. They're not coerced."


Coerced, no. Confused? Possibly. RCA thrives on students from third-world countries or from poor, inner-city families. It's possible, and even likely, that some students and parents lack the sophistication to understand their Faustian agreement with Redemption.


Harris' mother, Veronica, said she knew about the fundraising her son would have to do at RCA, but only in general terms. The same goes for the financial "obligation" she would have to meet when it came time to get his transcript.


"Of course (Massey) is going to mention the contract, but it wasn't until Will got to school that it was obvious what fundraising meant," she said. "They're out there for hours on end. Long hours. You don't send children out into the cold. You just don't do it. Will wanted to leave after his first year there (in 2002-03), but we were told he couldn't get his transcript. So he went back for another year. And then when we tried to get his transcript, we were told he hadn't met his quota and we owed $7,000."


Diene, a native of Senegal who came to the United States in the late 1990s, described his Redemption "ordeal" for SportsLine.com.


"I unfortunately attended Redemption," Diene wrote in an e-mail from France, where he is playing professionally. "For my ordeal, I was first offered a scholarship ... but soon did I find out that being at school over there meant a whole lot of manual labor which they like to call 'work study.' Students including myself had to go frequently outside -- usually at Wal-Marts and other stores -- to sell cookies in the freezing cold for long hours.


"If a student decides that he wants to leave the school, (Redemption) just holds their transcript and asks for a ridiculous amount of money, making it almost impossible for someone to graduate on time and go to college. They did it to me and I had to pay thousands of dollars to get my transcript."


After Diene transferred to Poughkeepsie High in 1999, his guardian and AAU coach, Jim Hart of the Albany City Rocks, says Redemption asked for $5,000 for Diene's transcript. Hart complained to the state board of education but was told that Redemption, a private school, was outside its jurisdiction. Sheehan eventually raised $3,000 from school boosters and made Redemption a take-it-or-leave-it offer.


"I went to Redemption and said, 'That's all I've got. Is that enough?' And it was," Sheehan said. "They took my money and gave me the transcript."


Massey said Diene was charged for his transcript because he left school early and owed the balance of his tuition. He also said Diene was "a thief (who) had to be de-wormed (and) broke school rules by pilfering money."


Hart was outraged by that accusation.


"He said what? Let me tell you something," Hart said. "I've coached more than 50 Division I players in eight years, and we've had more than 500 players in our program, and in that time I'd put Yamar's morals above everyone else we've ever had. And everyone else would agree. This is a great, great kid. That school is a sham."


Massey had harsh words for Rickards and Will Harris, too. He said Rickards, now at Florida Prep, "has to be brainwashed" to have said he quit Redemption because he was tired of selling baked goods. And Massey said Harris, now at Brewster (N.H.) Academy, was "disruptive and disrespectful ... he was a nobody before he came to Redemption."


In a hour-long interview Monday with SportsLine.com, Massey repeatedly responded to allegations with dismissive laughter and rhetorical questions. He noted that Harris and Rickards played for the same club coach in New York City, Nate Blue, who has been critical of Redemption in the past.


"The reason I'm laughing is, you have no idea how silly this is," Massey said. "I could go on and on. It's silly. Nate Blue says we've always been controversial? Wait minute -- are you stupid? Why put your kids in a situation where you know they're being exploited? Rainier came after Will. If we did Will Harris so wrong, why did (Blue) send Rain here? I want you to ask Nate that."


SportsLine.com did.


"That's an easy answer," Blue said. "Will was there when Rain went there for the summer, and then Will decided not to go back when school started in September (2004). By then Rain was already there, and he couldn't leave and keep his transcript from that summer. Rain told me, 'I can do one year here and go somewhere.' But he couldn't make it. He had to get out of there.


"Now," said Blue, "I laugh at kids (on my team). I tell them, 'You keep doing bad, I'll send you to Redemption.'"


RCA continues to get the occasional marquee player. Past students include NBA vets Mike James and Lamar Odom, as well as eventual college players like Avery Queen (Michigan), Rodney Epperson (St. John's) and most recently Texas Tech recruit Charlie Burgess, Rickards and Harris, who is being recruited by Top 25 programs.


Massey notes that wealthy athletes have sent relatives to RCA.


"Does the fact that Evander Holyfield's kid went here mean anything? Bruce Smith's nephew?" Massey said. "Are they people of any status? Are they silly, ignorant, dumb? They can't make judgments? Do you know they have the money to place their kids anywhere? Why do they choose us?"


Will Harris' mother wonders the same thing. Rainier Rickards wonders. Yamar Diene wonders.


Sheehan, the Poughkeepsie athletics director who bartered for Diene's transcript years ago, remembers the last words he heard as he left Redemption:


"As I was walking out the door, they said, 'If you ever have any kids at Poughkeepsie that would like to go Redemption, send them here,'" Sheehan said. "And I was thinking, 'This is the last place I'll ever send a player.'"

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