Charles Bassey, left, with Gary Trent after earning MVP honors Friday at Mustang Madness. (Larry Vaught Photo)
PADUCAH — Moving Aspire Academy from Arizona to Louisville was a move that coach Jeremy Kipness thought would work. Now midway of his team’s first basketball season in Kentucky, Kipness could not be happier with how things are going.
“It has been amazing. You can’t connect dots looking forward but you can looking backwards. Looking back at our decision to move, the support has been incredible. It has been humbling to see how many people want to come out and support us and to have a school like DeSales with its academic integrity is great,” Kipness said. “Our kids are treated just like everybody else at that school. It fosters growth for our kids.”
Aspire players attend DeSales High School and junior Charles Bassey, a top five player in the 2019 recruiting class, says that has been terrific for him and his teammates.
“It’s a great school with really good teachers for me and my teammates,” the 6-11 Bassey said. “We do all we can to experience everything the school has. We are becoming friends with a lot of people. It’s good.”
Aspire is here this weekend to play in the McCracken County Mustang Madness, which is part of the Grind Session that brings together some of the nation’s best prep school teams. Aspire played at the Marshall County Hoopfest in early December and has participated in the West Kentucky Hoops Classic.
“We want to get as many people acquainted and familiar with Aspire as we can in Louisville and the surrounding areas. Sometimes there is a negative stigma with prep school basketball, so with us it is about showing not just what we are but who we are. We do things the right way. We want to serve and give. This state loves basketball so much and that makes it easier for us,” Kipness said.
“We want to get all over the state. We want to have everybody familiar with us in all geographic locations in the state. Being the first prep school in Kentucky means something to us. We don’t take it lightly. We want to make sure that we hold up our side of the bargain.”
Kipness knows there sometimes is a negative stigma attached to prep schools that basketball is all that matters. However, he says prep school is the best alternative for some elite players.
“I am a product of the public schools. It’s terrific but it is a one size fits all system and there are those players who need a platform to where they will be challenged every day and every game is against a competition level they will face at the next level,” Kipness said.
“This is what really makes this special. There are no cupcakes. They are all wars on the floor and every day you have to bring it and it makes for some excitable times.”
Aspire plays against Hillcrest Prep — and sophomore Kyree Walker who is the top ranked point guard in the 2020 recruiting class — later today at Mustang Madness. That’s the kind of challenge Bassey likes. He’s working daily to improve his strength and continues to hear regularly from Kansas, UCLA, Western Kentucky and California along with numerous other schools.
“We lift regularly and I am getting stronger. Go out every day and practice hard, too, so we can win,” Bassey said. “I work on my outside shot a lot in practice but that’s not what they need me to do here for this team. Just get me the ball. I am bigger, stronger than other players. Just get me the ball and I can score for our team.”
Kipness has seen a surge in Bassey’s leadership skills and says he’s a stat-stuffer every game.
“Offensively with him he is able to do so much, so it is easy as coach because it is about putting him in the right spots. He continues to work hard daily and what you are seeing is he is evolving and developing, and that’s a testament to him,” Kipness said.
“He never loses sight of where he wants to get to and that’s a big part of it. We lift three days a week and he just brings it. Whatever he does, he does to the best of his ability. He is not taking a day off. That’s where his mindset it. He does so much and stuffs the stat sheet. A lot of stuff you can’t even see on the box score. It is his leadership qualities that bring out the best in our other players and what makes him such a pleasure to coach.”
He’s not worried about the recruiting process, either. Bassey says he has no visits planned yet.
“He just focuses on the day ahead and getting better,” Kipness said. “I love that about him.”