Editor’s note: The originally published story has been changed to delete a section from an inaccurate quote.
In the high school sports scene, it’s rare to see student-athletes deciding on their own to switch schools in order to get a proper education – as well as to attain golden opportunities to play for prominent athletic programs. Such moves are signs of maturity, when teenagers prioritize their chances to enroll in prestigious colleges.
One of Evanston Township High School’s newest seniors, rising basketball star Ephraim Chase, is a prime example, as he left Sullivan High School in Chicago this past June to become a Wildkit.
The 6-foot-4-inch guard decided to leave because he lost faith and interest in the school’s academic and athletic system. Chase and his family moved to Evanston in order for him to qualify as an ETHS student.
“The school I was at before wasn’t really pushing me academically,” Chase said. “It wasn’t pushing me to be a better basketball player, and I wanted to find a school that would do that for me in my senior year, to get me most prepared for college basketball.”
Chase was born in Paris while his father was studying abroad as a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He started his basketball odyssey at the age of 3, watching games with his older brother; he also collected trading cards of all-stars and played NBA video games.
His family eventually moved to Houston, and Chase’s father registered him on teams in the Spring Branch – Memorial Sports Association to start his career in organized competitive basketball. When Chase was in fourth grade, his family moved to Chicago’s North Side neighborhood of Rogers Park. He played in Amateur Athletic Union teams before enrolling in Sullivan during fall 2019.
Chase joined the varsity basketball team as a freshman that same year. He was in for a rude awakening: The Tigers suffered through three disappointing seasons, especially the shortened 2020-21 season when they only played seven games.
However, Chase’s playing ability was improving: He became a full starter during his sophomore season and averaged 11 points per game. He gradually increased his scoring average to 17 points the following season, his last with Sullivan.
During Chase’s freshman year at Sullivan, Tigers head coach Julian Williams helped him contact former NFL wide receiver Landon Cox, who is also an athletic trainer and the director of athletic support of the Beyond Sports Foundation, for an interview that eventually led him to enroll in the foundation’s program. This move would be beneficial for the high schooler’s basketball career and his life.
The Beyond Sports Foundation assists high school and college athletes with educational objectives, athletic progression and professional development.
Founded in 2007 by Elias Karras, the Highland Park nonprofit offers opportunities and advantages for student-athletes in their sport and careers after college.
Companies such as Wintrust Bank, Gatorade, Highland Park Bank & Trust and CDW have funded the foundation, as have individual donors.
“Beyond Sports has helped me so much,” Chase said. “From SAT prep to training. The free training they give us at EFT [training facility in Highland Park]; they give us free meals. The transportation places has helped me with a lot.”
Cox was one of the first student-athletes to enter the Beyond Sports program, shortly after its conception. He joined the foundation’s staff in 2018.
With nine years of experience under his belt in training, he and other trainers like former University of Nebraska defensive back Corey Cooper have helped Chase to work on conditioning and muscle strength.
“One thing we knew about Ephraim is that he’s motivated,” Cox said. “He kind of understands exactly what he wants to do, especially from a basketball standpoint. So, we always want to work with kids like that, who are dedicated to their craft, and that are intentional about what they want to do. And we could tell early on that he is committed and dedicated.”
Every Beyond Sports student-athlete follows a weekly schedule of athletic training, tutoring and attending professional development seminars that feature guest speakers. Chase’s schedule consists of tutoring sessions on Wednesdays after school, college counseling workshops on Sunday mornings and training two to three days a week.
This pillar also helps scholar-athletes to achieve college scholarships and follow a stable path to well-established careers. Since it started, 100% of Beyond Sports’ high school athletes have improved ACT and/or SAT scores. As of now, Chase has a 3.5-grade point average and an SAT score of 970.
The foundation has achieved a remarkable milestone as its student-athletes earned up to $1.2 million in scholarships two years ago despite the pandemic. More than 100 of its student-athletes have graduated from high school and attended college since the foundation started. Some 88% of those athletes ultimately graduated from college.
Although Chase hasn’t received any scholarships yet, he’s waiting for his dream school, Arizona State University, to knock on his door. He’s interested in studying marketing there.
Chase feels relieved after his transfer to ETHS and he is staying committed to developing himself as an exceptional high school athlete at Beyond Sports.
“I’m very blessed,” he said. “From the college counseling that I’m doing right now to all the SAT prep, that’s not stuff that you usually do for free, so you have to take that seriously. I’m very blessed to have that and very blessed to get that opportunity.”
His tenure with Beyond Sports is paying off from a basketball point of view as well. He is one of the top performers from the Prep Hoops Showcase in the state. Since his first season with ETHS is coming up in November, he’s ready to have the most prolific performance of his high school career on the court. The newcomer hopes to lead the Wildkits to their ninth straight winning season and beyond.
“I think we got a big season on the way,” he said. “We got multiple new pieces; it should be a really good season. We want to do it big.”