As the woeful story of West Virginia Prep Academy unfolds, the true depth of Daniel Hicks' duplicitous attempts to create a false basketball school are becoming more clear. It's also abundantly clear that Hicks is an incredibly convincing con man, able to sell both players and coaches on the possibilities his new school in West Virginia held, only to pull the rug out from underneath them all when they arrived at the site that was to be their cramped and crowded home.
One of the coaches caught in the scam was Antoine Smith (pictured at right), a former assistant coach at Columbus State Community College and the coach of the AAU Columbus Mustang Ballers. When Hicks was searching for potential coaches for his alleged basketball academy, he reached out to Smith, convincing him that the South Charleston-based school (he told Smith it would be called West Virginia Christian Prep Academy, not West Virginia Prep Academy) could be the perfect opportunity for Smith to prove he could coach top-level Division I collegiate talent.
Smith abruptly resigned via Twitter on Friday, and four days later was willing to discuss his experience with Prep Rally in his first public comments since officially leaving the organization which was to be called West Virginia Prep Academy.
According to a lengthy email exchange with Prep Rally, Smith eventually agreed to serve as one of West Virginia Prep's coaches, and helped recruit and organize an entire cadre of top-tier national talent, including the likes of Kentucky point guard Jaylen Beckham, Indianapolis forward Shaun Crayton, Maryland guard Corey Saunders and Arizona point guard Stephen Knox, among others. Yet, it wasn't until after Smith arrived in South Charleston that he realized all the promises made to he and his players were empty lies.
"After arriving in South Charleston on August 29, it became apparent to me that the program lacked the organization to be sustainable," Smith told Prep Rally via email. "My hope of being a head coach for D1 student-athletes fueled my efforts to help the program the four days I was there because I had made a tremendous sacrifice to be there."
While Smith repeatedly said that he felt sorry for all the players involved in the scam, it's clear that he, too, was a victim of Daniel Hicks' scheme. Smith was contacted and brought in to be a coach for the program less than 60 days before the school was to open and dropped his other commitments to try and help build a successful program. Because he holds an MBA degree, Smith was also told that he would proctor some of the students' classes as well.
Naturally, that was never going to be the case, since Hicks had arranged for all prospective students at West Virginia Prep to take only online classes via Mountain State University, just one of the layers of lies the former college basketball player used to lure potential athletes and coaches.
At the end of the day, it seems Smith was guilty of little more than his own ambition to prove that he could lead a top flight program, only to unintentionally lead a handful of teenagers into the teeth of an elaborate get rich quick scheme perpetrated by a single, convincing con man.
"I was hired as a head coach for West Virginia Christian Prep Academy in July 2011 with the hopes of demonstrating to the coaching fraternity that I could recruit, teach, and coach D1 student-athletes," Smith said via email. "Based on representations made to me by Daniel Hicks (Head Master/Athletic Director) about the school, I recruited a talented group of D1 student-athletes in less than 60 days.
"I would like to send out my deepest apologies to all the parents, student-athletes, and coaches that were hoping to achieve great things at West Virginia Christian Prep Academy. … All of our hopes and dreams for making it to the next level (as players and coaches) through West Virginia Christian Prep Academy were abruptly cut short, and for that I am deeply sorry."
- West Virginia