The fact that a pop-up prep basketball academy finds itself under the scope of an NCAA investigation shouldn't exactly be a shocker, but the tactics of one California prep school sure came as a surprise for a number of potential Division I recruits.
After leaving North Central (Indianapolis) High for a chance to play on a bigger stage at CCSE (Roseville, Calif.) Prep, John Murry has since left the program after a series of red flags and joined Taag (Tampa, Fla.) Academy, according to a USA Today feature.
CCSE Prep President and CEO Francis Ngissah, 24, promised Murry and nine other potential DI recruits national exposure on the basketball court and a course load in the classroom that would help them meet their NCAA requirements. They received neither.
Actually, they did receive national exposure as a result of their association with Ngissah. You might remember that name from his arrest a couple weeks ago on child abuse charges for "sadistic" treatment of the players he housed in his own home.
“They were punished, and had to stand in the corner for an extended period of time, with their hands and feet bound by zip-ties,” Roseville Police Sgt. Derin DeFreece told Sacramento's FOX affiliate. “They also had clothes pins attached to their nipples.
“(It may not have been sexually related because) it seems more sadistic to us.”
While Murry told USA Today he wasn't among the players allegedly abused, he did corroborate their claims. "We didn't feel like there was much we could do," he said. "Our parents were all across the country or out of the country. We just tried to deal with it."
Ngissah convinced Murry to move into his Northern California home, which served as the location of CCSE Prep, after watching the Indianapolis native's success at a series of scouting combines. In all likelihood, the high school senior would have backed up former Mr. Indiana Basketball and current New Orleans Hornets star Eric Gordon's little brother Eron, a freshman phenon who scored 31 points in his North Central High debut.
Instead, Murry and his father put their trust in Ngissah, who established credibility by hiring former San Jose State University and St. Mary's College assistant coach Keith Moss and announcing Brazilian-born CCSE Prep captain Christiano Felicio's commitment to the University of Oregon. In addition to waiving $15,000 in tuition and fees, the CCSE Prep staff named Murry captain alongside Felicio, according to the USA Today report.
That's about the time when the red flags began, leading to the coach's departure three weeks into the season, Murry and Canadian teammate Jalen Griffiths departure in December, and interim coach Dave Garcia's departure soon afterwards. Both Moss and Garcia claimed they hadn't received proper payment for their coaching roles.
"That's the way (Ngissah) works," Garcia told the paper. "He's an incredible con man. He keeps everybody in the dark about what he's doing. I'd ask him questions I already knew the answers to just to see how quickly he'd come up with a lie. It's really incredible."
Then, on Jan. 8, four CCSE Prep players came forward to the police with the abuse accusations. Ngissah was arrested two days later and released on a $100,000 bond.
Additionally, USA Today reported that the NCAA is investigating "the legitimacy of the coursework" at the prep basketball academy, which on its website claims, "We want to be the premier schools for freshmen through senior student athlete basketball players who want to get a college prep education on and off the court."
Perhaps the typos throughout the website's "About Us" section should have been the first red flag. Meanwhile, Murry still searches for that elusive DI basketball scholarship offer, although he said he's received interest from Northern Kentucky and Illinois State.