Kanye West school cancels basketball season as remaining players leave

The 2022-23 basketball season has been canceled for the elite prep team at Donda Academy, the private school started by Kanye West, after the four remaining players left the school, one of the players and the mother of another player told USA TODAY Sports on Friday.

The fallout from antisemitic comments by West, the hip hop artist now known as Ye, led four major tournaments to disinvite the basketball team that included a handful of top college prospects. It also prompted the team’s three best players to transfer to other schools as additional games were canceled.

This week, the remaining players decided to leave before the team could take the court for a game, said senior forward Keyon Kensie and Kimberly Hicks, the mother of senior forward Justin Johnson.

“We only cared about playing basketball,’’ Kensie said by text message. “…canceling games was preventing that, so players started leaving.’’

Hicks said her son was headed back on Friday to her home in Miami.

“I know he is disappointed,’’ she said by text message.

Dorell Wright, the head basketball coach at Donda Academy, located in Simi Valley, California, recently said he was bringing in players in an attempt to field a team and play this season, according to Hicks. But players had not arrived by this week, according to Kensie.

Wright did not respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY Sports left by text message.

The team had been training at the Sports Academy, a cavernous center that includes five basketball courts about 15 miles away from the school – which at least some players had never even seen.

“What is that?’’ Braedon Moore, who played for Donda Academy last year, said when he saw a photo of the school’s campus, which features two black buildings, empty classrooms and an outdoor basketball court near the school’s front entrance.

Although Donda Academy bills itself as a K-12 school, the only high school students are the basketball players, according to Moore and Tirone Cruz, father of former Donda Academy player Zion Cruz.

The school was abruptly closed Oct. 27 as part of the fallout that included Adidas, Gap and the talent agency CAA, among others, cutting ties with Ye. But Donda Academy’s basketball team remained, albeit with a shrinking roster.

Last year, in the team’s inaugural season, Donda Academy went 11-9, according to seasonticket.com. Hopes were higher for the 2022-23 season after the school hired Wright, who played in the NBA for 11 seasons.

But the roster took a major hit last week when five-star guard Robert Dillingham transferred to Overtime Elite in Atlanta and four-star guard AJ Johnson transferred to Southern California Academy.

Eventually, the 10-player roster was down to four.

In addition to Kensie and Johnson, the other remaining players were Trent Lincoln, a 6-3 point guard from Florida, and Davius Loury, a 6-7 forward from Chicago.

“Donda was a great program (that) helped me get better and we had a great team,’’ Kensie said. “But it is what it is. We still brothers and will all succeed regardless of what happened.’’

Kenny Hooks, whose son, Jalen, left the school in the summer after a disappointing season with the team, recalled something else about the experience.

“Our kids were being sucked in by the lifestyle of the rich and the famous,’’ Hooks told USA TODAY Sports during a recent interview. “They were around stars all the time.”

On Friday, there were no stars and no basketball team.

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