As first reported by the Charleston Gazette, nearly 20 teens were found living in a South Charleston apartment last weekend, claiming to attend West Virginia Prep Academy, a fake school created by former New Mexico State basketball player Daniel Hicks.
Hicks allegedly convinced basketball players from across the country and even abroad in France and Africa to travel to West Virginia to attend his school, asking for an enrollment fee of only $500 followed by monthly payments of $300.
But when the students arrived in hopes of a Hoop Dreams fairytale, Hicks’ scheme began to unravel. Crammed into one apartment, the boys were carted to public gyms a few hours a day to play, without food or a bed as Hicks promised. According to a Yahoo! Sports interview with one of the players, Hicks instructed the teenagers to enroll in online courses at a community college, Mountain State University.
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After suspicions surfaced, parents began to worry and South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens told the Gazette the city received a phone call from an Indiana mother who was concerned her son was there under “false pretenses.” Two unnamed coaches also allege Hicks tricked them into coming to West Virginia.
In a phone call to the Gazette Sunday, Hicks said his school was legitimate and received a letter of approval on behalf of the superintendent of schools, but the office is claiming no knowledge of the private school.
The students were moved to a Ramada Inn and have since left South Charleston, but Hicks has disappeared. Mayor Mullens said an FBI investigation is expected, the Gazette reports.
West Virginia Prep’s makeshift website boasts a statement from Hicks: “The opportunity to use sports as an avenue to greater things is a huge thrill and I feel fortunate to be a part of it.” NewsFeed isn’t sure how Hicks defines “opportunity.”