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Denver Prep Academy Providing New Platform For Elite Athletes

(CBS4) - In a gym just minutes from the heart of downtown Denver, Ray Valdez leads his Denver Prep Academy Yetis through another practice.

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In what has become one of the hottest trends in high school athletics, Denver Prep Academy is a prep school focused on identifying exceptional athletes and helping them hone their skills on the court and in life, to help them reach the next level.

In its first year of existence, DPA has eight students. All eight of whom are on the basketball team.

"We are a private school with a focus on electives and focus on basketball," says Valdez. "I really truly believe that we do what's best for the students and what's best for the kids."

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DPA's roster consists of students from across the country, including Keyshawn Hall from Ohio and Mikey Lewis from California.

"I just felt the environment was a good environment to get better, and that's what I like to do," said Lewis, who is 16 years old.

Rather than play in a state-sanctioned organization like CHSSA, DPA plays in the Grind Session, a 28-team league featuring teams from across the country and in Canada.

"I heard they were going to play in the Grind Session, one of the top leagues in the country, and they had a good class program for school, and I needed to get a grade boost so I came here to help my academic career and play on the top level," adds Hall. "Since I've been here, I picked up offers from Arizona State, Washington State, I'm talking to Texas and Vanderbilt now, so when I came here it helped me play on a national scale."

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Jonathan Barnett, who played Division I basketball, is the CEO of Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning and is one of the co-founders of DPA.

"I've been around the game my whole life," said Barnett. "I love what it teaches, and to be able to share use that platform in the community I live in and where I started my business, it's a no brainer."

While Barnett and Valdez want the Yetis to be successful on the court, they also stress victories off the floor as well.

"We have a service-learning curriculum. Our kids are down at the Denver Rescue Mission serving lunches, they're reading books to one of the kindergarten classes across the street. I think if our kids carry lives of servitude, that will be our measurement of success," adds Valdez.

"A lot of these kids are going to play college ball. Some of them are going to play pro, but at the end of the day, we want them to be a professional at life," adds Barnett. "We want them to be good fathers and good husbands. Character matters. It's more to us than wins and losses. We want these kids to have servants hearts and give back into their community with whatever they're involved in."

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