With sweat glistening on his face and determination evident in his demeanor, Miles Tention drives left with four seconds remaining in a critical moment of a 2017 Central Coast Section (CCS) playoff basketball game. Tention hears his teammate yell for the ball and spins, threading the ball perfectly to his open teammate. He watches intently as his teammate shoots, and then scores the game winning basket.
Despite moments such as his CCS game-winning assist, Tention was not offered an athletic scholarship coming out of high school, and had to find another path to get into a college he wanted.
With many students interested in becoming collegiate athletes after high school, more athletes are looking to prepare for potential careers in sports by attending a sports prep school.
A misconception about sports prep schools is that there is a guaranteed scholarship awaiting student athletes who finish prep school.
However, according to MCN Sports Management, in most cases, financial aid is only given to students in need.
Tention, a former Paly varsity basketball player, went on to attend prep school at Saint Thomas More School in Connecticut.
Right now, Tention plays basketball for Division II school Saint Anselm College.
“Prep school allowed me to get a full ride scholarship to Saint Anselm College, a Division II school. We are currently ranked 19th [in Division II] and earlier this year we were ranked fourth nationally.”
Tention said he was striving to get an athletic scholarship to play basketball somewhere in the country that would push him academically as well as allow him to compete at a high level.
Tention said he learned about the prep school pathway through Aubrey Dawkins, another Paly alumnus. Dawkins went from Paly to New Hampton School in New Hampshire, went onto the University of Michigan, and now attends, and plays basketball at The University of Central Florida.
Prep schools have produced professional athletes such as National Basketball Association (NBA) role players Delon Wright and Kyle Kuzma, however the environment at a sports prep school comes with struggles.
For one, Tention said he found the transition difficult.
“(At) Paly we had a block schedule, and I had several prep periods throughout high school,” Tention said. “Coming to prep school we had a more strict schedule, whether it be in the few classes we had, or our workouts and practices. As well as living on campus and not going home to family and your own bed every day. It really tests your mental strength to make sure you keep your final goal in sight.”
Furthermore, admission to a prep school is competitive. At Saint Thomas More School, where Tention attended, applicants were required to have recommendations from an English teacher, math teacher and either the principal or guidance counselor.
But prep schools can help student athletes gain exposure to college coaches.
Students who need more credits, or want to improve their test scores often opt for prep schools.
Other athletes who generally go to prep schools are those who have lost college offers due to injury, as well as players who did not have a college offer coming out of high school.
After Paly, Tention did not receive the athletic scholarship offers that he was hoping for, and prep school gave him another opportunity.
Tention said that he thinks prep school is responsible for his full scholarship to Saint Anselm College.
Former Paly varsity basketball player Bryant Jefferson graduated from Paly in 2018, and also attended a prep school to pursue a career in basketball and said it was the perfect fit for him.
“I wanted to gain an extra year of exposure training and be able to get more acclimated to [the life of] a college student athlete like schedule, which will let me be more prepared for college,” Jefferson said.
With a goal of playing at a low Division I school or a high Division II school, Jefferson said his main goal was to become a stronger and smarter player overall. Jefferson now attends Bridgton Academy in Maine and said he has benefited both on and off the court.
“I have a 4.0 GPA here,” Jefferson said. “Being at this prep school has definitely made it easier to be more focused and take care of my studies. I have also become way more independent being across the country from my family.”
With Paly’s high academic standards, Jefferson left Paly feeling prepared for his next destination.
“The transition was fairly smooth. Academically, Paly definitely prepared me for this opportunity. Athletically, it was also fairly smooth (playing) in a highly competitive section like Central Coast Section, but the games at the prep level are at another speed. We are playing Division I and II players every game and in practice, so you get caught up to the speed fairly quickly.”
Sports prep schools are gaining more and more traction among high school students who found themselves lacking in opportunities to play sports in college.
However, some athletes leave high school in order to go to a prep school.
Patrick McIntosh left Paly in 2017 and attends Salisbury Prep School in Connecticut. McIntosh will play lacrosse at the University of Virginia.
“Salisbury offered me a different type of learning environment,” McIntosh said. “Here at Salisbury, we are required to play a sport all three seasons, but my main sport is lacrosse. I have benefitted at Salisbury both in the classroom in raising my grades and on the field in committing to play Division I lacrosse at the University of Virginia.”
McIntosh said the experience benefited him socially.
McIntosh said, “Overall it has been a super cool experience, letting me meet tons of great people.”