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Student athletes opting to play extra year of high school sports instead of college

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NEW YORK (PIX11) -- When it comes to high school basketball, there is arguably no coach nationwide who has a voice that is as respected as that of St. Anthony's Bobby Hurley Sr.

The Naismith Hall of Fame coach has seen it all while transforming the Jersey City High School into a nationally recognized powerhouse. The school has won 4national championships, 25 state championships and it has posted 7 undefeated seasons. However, in a career that has revolved around the hardwoods for nearly 50 years, Hurley recently sat down with PIX 11News for a career first. "This is the first time we've talked about this."

All across the northeast, there are numerous prep schools that offer up a post-graduate program. Simply put, it is a fifth year of high school. While in the past, this was an alternative way for students to improve their academics as a final attempt to get into the university of their choice, PIX11 News has discovered that there are many schools who embrace fifth year students who have already graduated from high school with strong grades as well as NCAA compliant test scores to do one thing: play sports.

The primary reason? Student-athletes and their families are aiming to land a college scholarship, and in some cases even improving on the one already offered. "I think all over the country right now there are kids and families that are hedging a bet that if another year they are involved in sports then all of a sudden that school that was interested may see a physically stronger kid or a particular school who doesn't know about the child because they participate for another year at the high school level all of a sudden makes it in," says Hurley.

Hurley also adds that it is just the sign of the times. "This is what society is built on. Once we have code of conduct it's now up for people to figure out how can I tweak this for its something that I think would be beneficial to me or someone close to me I can do that and this this an attempt in a lot of cases to take advantage of a loophole."

A loophole that permits an athlete who has already graduated to compete in another year of high school sports. Additionally, Hurley says that in some cases he has seen kids a few years removed from high school still competing against high schoolers. "Oh yeah there are six-year players. And in one case, one kid out of New York City was actually three years out of high school and he was still looking to see if he could enhance his situation, when he should have been a junior in college by then."

PIX11 News was at the court that bears his name when Hurley's squad hosted Coastal Academy. A post-graduate program that specializes in basketball with locations in New Jersey and Florida. Armand Cartwright is one of Coastal Academy's key players. A year ago, his surroundings were much different and hundreds of miles away, "I was in high school at the state championship game for Michigan" says Cartwright.

After Coastal Academy came up short against St. Anthony, he shared with me his story of passing on a college scholarship to play a fifth year of high school sports. "I was already qualified for college and I had good grades and everything like a 3.0 GPA." However, Cartwright did not want to attend Rochester College. "Right. So I thought go to a prep school, do another year, and I'll have more schools looking at me."

Like the elite prep schools, Cartwright says he too has daily classes revolving around "math, science, social studies." Coastal Academy's coach Rob Johnson shared with PIX11 News that he can relate to what his players are going through. "Some guys need an extra year I'm a product of that." Coach Johnson add that what he looks for out of that extra-year player, is someone who is committed athletically as well as academically. "If the goal is to get young men into college and have them be successful in the real world, however the route is to get there, I think that is what the ultimate goal is."

Hurley admits that he has no problem scheduling Coastal Academy and their team of 18 and 19-year-olds who should be freshman in college. According to him, they are one of the few schools who are doing business the right way -- even if their players already graduated from high school, "Maybe it isn't a level playing field but they have a certain mission that they are involved in and we really appreciate the game every year."