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How will the turmoil of Kanye’s Donda Academy affect recruiting?

In the wake of Kanye West’s antisemitic remarks, his Donda Academy is on life support. It always appeared like a shaky house of cards. A pop-up education ecosystem created by one of the most polarizing and mercurial celebrities was going to last? But it did exist, and it did field a basketball team. And drawn by the allure of his fame, players chose Donda.

But now four high-profile boys basketball showcases have dropped Donda from their tournaments and at least one player has bailed. After Aaron Donald and Jaylen Brown dropped Donda Sports as their representation it was only a matter of time before the house of cards started to fall. High school kids follow the lead of their college and pro role models. If Donda was too toxic for NFL and NBA studs, everything would sway and collapse.

Adidas also severed its business ties to Kanye, and now the question is will the entire Donda Academy fold up shop. The promise of acting big time was what sold so many players and their families on the school. But now that’s all crumbling.

“West founded Donda Academy last year in Simi Valley, Calif., a suburb 40 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. He used his star power — and promises of jetting players around the country for high-profile games — to lure elite talent throughout the nation to an apartment complex that served as their base for basketball and a nonaccredited curriculum that was built around online learning.” – New York Times

One-time Syracuse recruit (and DePaul commit) Zion Cruz played at Donda last year in the school’s first season. Just a week before the second season news is not good. The Play-By-Play Classic in Louisville, Ky., on Dec. 11 and the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass., on Jan. 15 both rescinded their invitations. So did the John Wall Holiday Invitational in Raleigh, North Carolina and the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, FL. The Times reached out to multiple members of the Donda basketball staff. Head coach Dorell Wright did not return texts. Two administrators, Justin LaBoy and Shayla Scott, did not return phone calls. Wright and Scott also ducked USA Today’s messages.

Chuck Bailey III, a three-star guard who was a reserve for Donda Academy last season, told USA TODAY Sports he left the school. His grandfather said it’s partially because of Kanye’s comments. The school appeared closed earlier this week but a Thursday report suggested it would re-open. But any promises of the school right now are sketchy and unpredictable, just like Kanye.

The key to everything might be 5-star Robert Dillingham, who is committed to Kentucky. Some observers believe once he bails on the team, every other player will follow. He could decide to play for Overtime Elite and still get paid for his year before the NBA. But being barred from all the showcases that prep stars want to participate in to gain notoriety and college/G-League offers, is worst case scenario. There’s also 5-star combo guard AJ Johnson and 4-star small forward JJ Taylor. Johnson just had a visit to Louisville, and Taylor recently visited Lexington. They have yet to decide on their schools, but plenty of recruiters are monitoring the Donda situation closely.

Syracuse doesn’t appear to be in on any of the Donda players, but many expect an exodus of recruits in the next two weeks to other high school diploma mills. The players that were banking on bump-drafting Kanye’s celebrity got a good life lesson. Don’t depend on the undependable.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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