By Mike Henle

Findlay Toyota General Manager John Barr, foreground, is pictured with the Findlay Prep basketball team at the dealership’s Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame at 7733 Eastgate Road in the Valley Automall. (Mike Henle photography).

It’s an active Saturday morning at Henderson International School and the Findlay Prep Pilots are on center stage. Some top-named college basketball coaches are in the gymnasium scoping out some of the finest high school seniors in the country during a combine presented by second year Findlay Prep Coach Paul Washington.

This is very serious basketball in a setting that has turned into a breeding ground for young talented basketball players. The list of coaches in the gymnasium is impressive with Kentucky’s John Calipari, Texas Christian’s Ryan Miller, UCLA’s David Grace, Southern Utah’s Todd Simons and UNLV’s Marvin Menzies, among others.

The atmosphere is fast-paced and Findlay Prep has an impressive record with National High School championships in 2012 and 2013. The program is the result of Findlay Automotive Group president Cliff Findlay, who starred as a standout basketball player at Western High School and Nevada Southern University (NSU) before being offered a spot by the Portland Trail Blazer coach Rolland Todd, who coached Findlay at NSU.

Findlay’s son, Robby, attended Maine Central Institute, in 1998-99. The school enabled students to concentrate on their academics and athletics.

Since there was not a school like it in Southern Nevada, the elder Findlay created Findlay Prep.

“Findlay Prep gives young people a chance to focus on their academics and basketball with the hope of attaining a Division I basketball scholarship.” Robby Findlay said. “We wanted to provide a service out west and before we knew it, we had Top 25 McDonald’s All Americans wanting to play for us. After ten-plus years, this has by far reached and surpassed our expectations. :

Since its inception, Findlay Prep has seen 14 players enter the NBA after attending the school.

However, while he’s an absolute wizard in the car business, Findlay still has a love for the game of basketball. He especially prides himself on how far Findlay Prep has come since its inaugural season in 2006. The list of players who have eventually gone on to play in the National Basketball Association including Avery Bradley, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Rashad Vaughan and Christian Wood, among others.

Findlay is especially impressed in the young men some of whom traveled thousands of miles to attend Findlay Prep and play basketball. He tells stories about some of the players coming to the school escaping bad environments.

“We had one player who had been sleeping on a dirt floor,” Findlay once said. “These are good young men who deserve a chance. They’re polite and friendly.”

The 2017 Findlay Prep Pilots include guard Almamy Drame from Senegal, South Africa; forward Nathan Mensah of Accra, Ghana; along with other players such as 7-foot-3 center Connor Vanover of Little Rock, Ark., guards Dillon Glendenning and Jack Schwietz, both of Plano, Tex.; among other players hailing from Texas cities Plano, Dallas and Frisco.

Six-foot-four Guard TJ Moss hails from Memphis, Tenn. He speaks highly about the chance to play for Coach Paul Washington, who is entering his second year coaching the Pilots.

“This is a great opportunity to preserve my basketball career,” Moss explained. “Vegas is pretty great, and the school is very good. “

Roy Jones III, a 5-foot-9 forward from Pensacola, Fla., echoed Moss adding, “This is a great chance for me to better my game. I like Vegas and we get very good play with Findlay Prep.”

Also very evident at Findlay Prep is the comments by the parents of the players.

“We are all different and I have done what I wanted in life,” said Charles Glendenning, a 57-year-old commercial real estate executive and insurance agent from Plano, Tex., whose son, Dillon, a 5-10 guard, is on the team. Dillon said this is the best decision he has ever made. To be away from home can be really hard on kids, but Dillon is very mature and he has embraced Findlay Prep.”

Washington’s wife, Sherry, is a big backer of both the program and Las Vegas.

“All of the athletes are from different areas,” she said. “It’s really a great feeling to see these kids bond. It’s a brotherhood and the players will remember this experience for the rest of their lives. They’re all from different areas and they have welcomed this opportunity with open arms.”

Washington, the native of Grand Rapids, Mich., is looking forward to the new season.

“It’s a great job,” said Washington. “We have done it the right way for 12 years so we’re proud of that. We have had 14 players drafted out of Findlay Prep. We have ten seniors this year so we should be in the top ten.”

The goals of the school are to get every player academically qualified for a Division I university; win the national championship and beat Bishop Gorman, according to Robby Findlay.

Locals are urged to attend Findlay Prep games and witness the talent of many future NBA stars. For information regarding the team’s schedule, visit
Findlay Prep is located at 1165 Sandy Ridge Ave., in Henderson.

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