The bench empties at controversial Milestone Christian Academy

Milestone Christian Academy

Milestone Christian Academy raised many eyebrows last fall for acquiring high school basketball talent from St. Louis- and Kansas City-area schools. But now the varsity bench at the Christian school in north Kansas City has nearly emptied; at least nine players, including a six-foot-eleven Saint Louis University recruit, have left Milestone. Their departures — some of which resulted in eligibility losses — raise more questions about the school's credentials. (See Kristen Hinman's "Hoop Raiders," December 19, 2007.)

Junior Justin "Flash" Keener and senior Marcel Taylor-Smith, who were Vashon High School Wolverines before defecting to Milestone last September, now attend Shawnee Mission West High School in Overland Park, Kansas. Sophomore Nino Williams, another ex-Wolverine who made the move to Milestone, is enrolled at Leavenworth High School in Kansas. Senior Willie Reed, who is slated to play for the Billikens next year, has returned to Bishop Miege High School in Shawnee Mission. But none of the young men are playing basketball.

"[Keener's and Taylor-Smith's] credits were askew," explains Mike Brinsko, the boys' basketball coach at Shawnee Mission West. "Our Kansas activities association did not consider the credits to be in compliance with state standards, and our district's standards are even higher, so we could not allow them to play." Brinsko says Keener may be able to play next year.

Leavenworth High coach Larry Hogan says Nino Williams had the same problem. "He lost a semester [at Milestone]. He didn't have any [credits] to transfer in with," says Hogan. Williams lives with a local Leavenworth family and practices with the varsity team but won't compete until next season, Hogan says.

State and federal governments do not accredit Christian schools; Milestone is not accredited by any of the better-known religious accrediting agencies. Milestone's coach, principal and pastor, Peter Flournoy, did not return calls for comment. But in a telephone interview with Riverfront Times in December, Flournoy said his school uses a religious home-school curriculum affiliated with Lighthouse Christian Academy, a national chain of schools. According to the NCAA college clearinghouse's Web site, Lighthouse's classes are eligible for NCAA competition.

Milestone, whose student population is predominantly African American, opened in 2005. Its 50 to 60 students pay no tuition and take four to five classes, Monday through Thursday, in a building attached to a church. The 28-year-old Flournoy moved to Kansas City several years ago from his home state of Alabama, where he is wanted on fifteen misdemeanor warrants for writing bad checks, according to Sgt. Lee Taylor of the Etowah County Sheriff's Department.

It is unclear whether academics or other factors prompted so many of Flournoy's players to call it quits. His varsity team carried home the Division 3 National Association of Christian Athletes championship title in both 2006 and 2007, Milestone's first two years of competition. Basketball is the academy's only organized sport; the school had two boys' squads prior to the recent departures of its top players.

"I was just glad that they didn't get in there too deep and screw up their future," says Steve Stitzer, basketball coach at Hogan Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Kansas City, referring to juniors Eric Austin and Darell Hollinshed.

Austin and Hollinshed played for Stitzer in the 2006-07 school year but transferred to Milestone last September, before returning once and for all to Hogan Prep before the first quarter ended. Says Stitzer: "It was within enough time to where they could get their credits in order and still be eligible by state rules."

Junior Richard Anderson, a six-foot-eight Division I college prospect who played for the Beaumont High School Bluejackets before enrolling at Milestone last September, also had a seamless move away from Milestone. Anderson now suits up for a Tennessee prep school, Nashville Christian Advancement Academy. Coach Carl Reed, a Hazelwood native, says Anderson missed several weeks of second semester but is doing well in NCAA-approved courses.

"I really can't speak on what exactly happened at Milestone," adds Reed. "But as a coach it's your responsibility to make sure all the kids are tracking academically. You have to make sure your kid has his qualifications for the NCAA. And when you don't do that, you run the risk of your kid going somewhere else."

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