Chances are, you’ve never heard of the boys basketball team that’s by far the best in Texas, at least according to ESPN’s national rankings.

Dynamic Prep has only been a school for two years. Its regular-season record was 21–1 , and ESPN has it at number 14 in the nation. The only other Texas team in the rankings is Plano East Senior High, at number 24. “They have the most talented team in Texas,” said Sam Lowe, director of the Metroplex-based Great American Shoot-Out, which scouts players and holds offseason tournaments across Texas.

Three of Dynamic Prep’s players are in GASO’s top hundred seniors in the state: number 35 guard-wing Leon Horner, number 42 point guard Jaylen Washington, and number 67 forward Malachi Hayes. Three more are in GASO’s top thirty Texas juniors: number 8 center Jaden Toombs, number 10 forward Jermaine O’Neal Jr., and number 29 combo guard Leroy Kelly IV.

Dynamic Prep’s nickname? The team doesn’t have one yet. Maybe next season.

The school operates out of an indoor sports complex on the southern edge of DFW International Airport. If you’ve returned a rental car there, you’ve driven near the 91,000-square-foot building that houses court space for six basketball and ten volleyball courts, an indoor football practice field, a weight training area, and meeting rooms.

Dynamic Prep will play in San Antonio this weekend for the state championship of a high school athletic association you probably haven’t heard of—the Texas Christian Athletic League—where the team will be a prohibitive favorite to repeat. Its hope is to earn an invite to the High School Boys Basketball Nationals in Indiana come April.

But if you’ve followed the NBA for some time, you’re probably familiar with the coach who started Dynamic Prep, in 2022, and opened the Drive Nation center seven years ago. “This is an incubator,” said Jermaine O’Neal, the 45-year-old, six-time NBA All-Star center who played eighteen seasons in the league.

After his NBA career ended in 2014, O’Neal, who grew up in South Carolina, settled in the Dallas suburb of Southlake and built Drive Nation’s summer hoops program into one on the country’s top travel basketball teams. By O’Neal’s count, Drive Nation has featured 167 Division I college basketball and volleyball players. His 2018–19 basketball roster included 2021 number one NBA draft pick Cade Cunningham, Philadelphia 76ers star Tyrese Maxey, and Gonzaga University forward and 2023 Naismith Trophy finalist Drew Timme.

“But we’re not here from a club perspective, and not even a high school perspective, to make anybody a pro,” O’Neal told me before a recent practice. “We give ’em the tools and information to use that they can use at the next level. Worst-case scenario is being able to take basketball from a Dynamic Prep perspective and get a free education, which will then put them in a better situation to economically grow wherever they individually sit or where their families sit.

“The ultimate goal,” he went on, “is to get these kids to school based off what they do in the classroom and what they do on the court, and we are relentless when it comes to that.”

More than half of Dynamic Prep’s schedule this season was played against teams from outside Texas. The team’s lone defeat came by two points to Link Academy, based in Branson, Missouri, and ranked number seven in the most recent ESPN rankings. Its only opponent from the University Interscholastic League (the state oversight group responsible for Texas public school sports) this season was Mansfield Lake Ridge, whose coach (Cornelius Mitchell) is part of O’Neal’s summer Drive Nation staff (Dynamic Prep won, 58–39).

“Not everybody’s willing to play a prep team,” O’Neal said of the challenges he’s faced lining up in-state opponents. “Not sure why.” He said the road trips include study halls. “Everything we do, we’re emulating what they’ll see at the next level,” he said. “This isn’t about high school.”

The eleven players on Dynamic Prep’s roster are the sum total of the school’s enrollment, not a unique arrangement in the world of sports-centric prep academies. The players must report to the complex by 9 a.m. on weekdays for self-paced instruction that’s done primarily online through what assistant coach Aaron Espinosa said is an NCAA-approved program called Edgenuity.

O’Neal’s vision for Dynamic Prep appears to have been greatly shaped by his experience with his daughter, Asjia, who was a standout volleyball player at Southlake Carroll High. O’Neal said she was doing homework at midnight and didn’t compete in her senior season because of burnout. (She went on to play for two national championship teams at the University of Texas and now plays professionally.)

The Dynamic Prep school day is intentionally much shorter than what’s found at standard public high schools. The players then proceed to weight training before an early afternoon practice. “We don’t do the typical babysitting courses that don’t translate to anything,” O’Neal explained. Tutoring is available as needed, Espinosa said, including when students are home at night and need to meet via Zoom. O’Neal said the team has a collective 3.3 grade point average.

“At a regular high school, you’ve got to sit in the classroom for hours and hours,” said Washington, the five-ten senior guard who won a UIL Class 6A state championship last season with Dallas’s Lake Highlands High School and has signed to play for UT Rio Grande Valley. “Here, you get your work done at a self pace. Then, we’re all about the body, about getting better.”

Said O’Neal: “We want to create a model that is conducive to competing from an academic standpoint, which is literally number one on our agenda, and then allowing them to go compete on the playing surface, in the weight room, and then also being able to still be teenagers.”

He said the players are also exposed to successful business role models.

“My objective is that we continue to bring in people to talk to ’em, put ’em around people who have different backgrounds and professions, and see if they like any of that stuff,” he said. “If they go off and be a lawyer, great. A business owner, a pro basketball player, whatever it may be—we know we’ve done our job to impact their lives.”

O’Neal has a retort for anyone who fears the students won’t benefit from this arrangement: “My son is in this. There’s no way I’m going to put him in here and we ain’t right. ’Cause I want to stay married.”

Washington said after winning the UIL title last season, he wanted to see if he could play for a national championship. Jermaine O’Neal Jr., a six-six forward, said he began his prep career with a homeschooling organization called the Texas Alliance of Christian Athletes. He moved over to Dynamic Prep when it opened. “I’m ahead of all classes and could have graduated this past school year,” he said. “I just feel like I’ve benefited from schooling, basketball, and just my mental health for me being able to get done with things earlier in the day and not be up late at night trying to get things done and then getting up early. I know I’ll be able to hang out with my friends and still get my schoolwork done.”

Many of Dynamic Prep’s players previously played for Drive Nation’s travel team. Junior guard Nate Macadory did so as a sixth and seventh grader and arrived at the school this year. His father, Stanley, said Nate played previously for Faith Family Academy and Hillcrest High, both in Dallas. “What appealed to him and me—my oldest ones [a daughter and son] played college ball—was the ability to focus on your dream, your goal, and also get the nutrition, strength, and conditioning,” Stanley said. “And then you’re being taught by pros how to potentially be a pro.”

He said he checked out the educational aspect with Dynamic Prep’s academic director, Kim Williams, and that he was satisfied with the school’s online program. “I didn’t want any NCAA issues,” he said. “This is my third one, so I know the rules.”

Kelly’s father, Leroy III, said he likes how Dynamic Prep resembles the European model that’s producing more NBA stars. “Once an individual finds out what they’re passionate about or what they want to do for their career, you start focusing on just that,” he said. “Think about the Luka Dončićs, the Tony Parkers—all of them have been pros since they were, like, fourteen, fifteen years old. The United States is falling behind from the level of talent because they are not being trained as pros. Nowadays, we are just seeing so much wasted time in schools.”

Plans were in the works last year for Dynamic Prep to add a girls basketball program, but Espinosa said those have been placed on hold. O’Neal has grander plans on deck: “We’re going to start building a campus in the Dallas area. We’ll make an announcement probably over the next six months.”

O’Neal is also preparing to take his team on a more ambitious schedule in 2024–25, one he said will include playing in prestigious showcase events like the City of Palms Classic, in Fort Myers, Florida, and the Hoophall Classic, at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, in Springfield, Massachusetts.

“This year was bigger than last year,” O’Neal said. “Next year’s an even bigger year. At this point in my life, it’s about the kids.

“I know everyone can’t be an NBA player, but one thing I do understand is that most kids—whether they’re suburban America, middle-class America, inner-city America—have deficiencies in their homes. One thing I do understand is that sports can fill those voids. Leadership in sports can fill those voids.”