New post-grad basketball team coming to Athletes in Action

Athletes in Action campus in Xenia

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Athletes in Action campus in Xenia

Xenia organization plans to launch team in 2022

Athletes in Action will launch a post-graduate basketball prep academy on its Xenia campus next September. It will be the latest program trying to fill a need created during the pandemic.

Former Dayton Flyers Chris Wright and Joey Gruden united to build Flyght Academy Prep in Dayton, while Southwest Ohio Preparatory Academy started play in Springfield a year ago.

“It’s gotten really popular in the basketball world the last couple years,” said Robert Kaiser, director of operations for AIA Prep Academy. “With the NCAA giving everybody that extra year of eligibility for COVID and then kind of the opening up the transfer portal, there are a lot of spots on the college level that were available to graduating high school seniors that just aren’t there anymore.”

That made Athletes in Action want to start its own team in 2022, along with the fact that earlier this year it opened what Kaiser called a “high level elite sports performance center” on its 250-acre complex. It will also break ground on the John Wooden Family Fieldhouse in the spring, Kaiser said.

“That is 100,000 square-foot indoor facility that will be nearly basketball centric,” Kaiser said. “That is now fully funded. So there were those external factors, and then AIA is just in a good place. We really saw an opportunity to minister to this new demographic.”

Starting a prep team is also a callback to what the organization did in its early days, Kaiser said. In more recent years, Athletes in Action has led summer tours or invited athletes to train at its complex. Years ago, it had fall touring teams that would play some of the top college teams in the nation.

“It’s cool to kind of reach back in its history a little bit,” Kaiser said, “and then also be on the cutting edge in terms of what’s new and fresh in the basketball world.”

Players on the prep academy team will have access to the dorms and dining facilities on the Xenia campus. They will take classes to prepare for the SAT and ACT, and the academy will teach a Bible-based leadership course.

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John Green, who has spent the last 17 seasons coaching at the high school level in North Carolina, most recently at Wake Christian Acaemy in Raleigh, will lead the team. He’s working on building a roster and is currently accepting applications from unsigned seniors in the 2022 recruiting class.

“It’s kind of murky right now for parents and high school seniors with the transfer portal, the extra year of COVID,” Green said. “It’s challenging for parents right now trying to help their sons navigate these waters. We want to step in and help them with a gap year. It’s exciting. The things that we have planned to do with the academy, even outside of basketball, will be an incredible opportunity.”

Also helping with the team are James Bolin, director of the academy and player development, and Jared Miller, the head assistant coach.

The plan is to play a 30-game national schedule.

“Athletes in Action has been around for 50 years,” Green said, “and the basketball department specifically has such a network of connections throughout the college and professional landscape of basketball. The exposure that we’ll be able to provide the young men will be incredible. We’re going to play at a lot of different levels. We’re gonna play some NAIA schools, some other post-grad prep schools, some Division II, and then there are a number of Division I schools that have JV teams. So we’re gonna do that we’re gonna play a national schedule. COVID permitting, we’re going to take the guys on an international tour for a week or so at the end of at the end of their nine months.”

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