Denver Prep Academy selling gym and dorms after top benefactor resigns amid “philosophical and operational differences” with private basketball school founders
Denver Prep Academy is closing its doors after less than one year as an alternative path for elite boys high school basketball players.
DPA will not offer classes in the fall or compete in the Grind Session, a national prep basketball circuit, as the school “regroups” following a shakeup to its leadership team. DPA co-founder Jonathan Barnett — CEO and President of Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning — has resigned as the school’s top benefactor.
“Jonathan Barnett is no longer involved with Denver Prep Academy,” a spokesman for Barnett told The Denver Post. “He resigned at the beginning of the month due to philosophical and operational differences with the other members of the organization. In addition, Jonathan has put the gym and dorms that he initially purchased in July of last year up for sale.
“Jonathan’s passion for basketball and desire to empower student-athletes remains constant despite these recent developments. Looking ahead, he has every intention of continuing to ensure that young basketball players are given the opportunities they need to be the best they can be — both on and off the court.”
DPA’s remaining co-founders — Ray Valdez and Domonic Martinez — are tabling the project for at least one year, they said, with the expectation of a future reopening with new investors.
The school is certified by the NCAA with courses and proof of graduation all required “in the initial-eligibility certification process.” DPA also received a three-year national accreditation in May from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which establishes academic standards globally for about 5,200 public and private schools, according to its website.
“This isn’t the sad story that we’re closing. This is a story that’s to be continued,” said Martinez, a longtime Denver Public Schools administrator and athletic director. “We won’t do anything to jeopardize our accreditation. We can put the brakes on things, recalibrate, replan and reopen.”
DPA is among a growing trend of Colorado private schools offering specialized basketball training that mimic the college experience. Class time is organized around early morning practice, afternoon workouts, and games played on national circuits to maximize exposure. Many DPA players lived together in a house next door to the team’s practice gym. DPA rented classroom space from August through May in the Westwood Community Center with a staff of five licensed teachers.
The program’s two most highly recruited players both left the team in February: Baye Fall and Assane Diop. DPA added midseason transfers who signed Division I scholarships in Keyshawn Hall (UNLV) and Juan Sebastian Gorosito (Portland). But several additional players also transferred from the team.
“With a limited number of students, that capital coming in was relatively low,” Martinez said. “We had a great amount of local support. Jonathan Barnett’s outreach made this year possible where we didn’t have to cut any corners. That was great. But, in year two, in order for us to take that next step, we were going to need additional human capital. There was a small group of us kind of running and doing everything.”
DPA finished the basketball season with a .500 record (8-8). The school is now assisting its remaining underclassmen to find new teams, said Valdez, DPA’s head basketball coach. There are currently no Colorado-based players on the roster. DPA still maintains an ambitious vision despite the setback.
“Where we want to go, it’s going to take a bigger team,” Valdez said.
The school is not considering the academy model — like Colorado Prep’s partnership with Belleview Christian — and plans to resume with its own curriculum, teaching staff and campus within “two to three years,” Valdez said. DPA operates under the nonprofit Building Futures and is seeking new investors to provide funding to support DPA’s mission statement to “inspire achievements in our youth so they can dream bigger, grow stronger, and reach their true potential,” according to its website.
“It would take a big endowment by a group of folks that believed in what we’re doing,” Martinez said. “Not only just to operate next year, but to assure that we operate for years to come.”