Watch Emmanual Mudiay on the court and it's not hard to see how the junior point guard came to be ESPN's No. 3 recruit in the country, or why University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari would take such a keen interest.
He's big, for one, 6-foot-4 and almost 200 pounds, and he plays with a graceful fluidity, slicing through defenses with almost comical ease. Just check out one of his many mixtapes.
Given all that, you might wonder why he would leave Arlington's Grace Prep Academy, where he had just won a state championship, to a startup charter school that would ultimately refuse to compete in district play. You could wonder the same thing about seniors Karviar Shepherd (No. 72, class of 2013) and Jordan Mickey (No. 53), who also made the move from Grace Prep, and Elijah Thomas (No. 6, class of 2016), who transferred from Rockwall High.
The answer has a lot to do with Deion Sanders, who has from the beginning spun his Prime Prep Academy as a place focused squarely on academics. That's the reason it's attracted so many high-profile athletes, as he explained in October. They and their parents simply wanted a top-notch Prime Prep education.
Whether the education at Prime Prep is indeed top notch is hard to tell from the outside. Its shady origin story and its CEO -- a businessman named D.L. Wallace who was caught trying to profit from the school and who, records show, now pays himself $130,000 a year -- raise some doubts.
There is, however, no doubt about the quality of the school's basketball team, which is on a rampage, having cobbled together a schedule by traveling around the country to compete against prep basketball powerhouses. It climbed to No. 4 in the country before it suffered its first lost last week to unranked Wichita Sunrise Christian. They compete for a national title of sorts this weekend.
None of that is proof that Prime Prep players didn't switch to the unproven, shadily founded school because they wanted a good education. The circumstantial evidence suggests that they were attracted by promises of a national stage and a season much like the one they're having. You can't really fault the kids, some of whom are likely NBA-bound, for making that choice. Theoretically you could, if you were the Texas Education Agency, find fault with Sanders and Wallace for making it an option, but they've never seemed particularly interested.