Fall Tour: Charis Prep

WILSON, N.C. -- Without Carlos Peralta, there might not have been a Jimmy Graham. Miami might not have signed Graham as a basketball player. He may never have made it to the football field for the Hurricanes. And who knows, maybe the New Orleans Saints don’t get a chance to draft him.

Peralta, the head coach at Charis Prep in North Carolina, was there to help Graham at a pivotal time in a complicated upbringing. The coach has a big heart. When the NCAA came in a few years ago and slapped his program on a “blacklist” and wouldn’t accredit his school, Peralta didn’t quit. He’s still operating Charis Prep, still giving kids a chance -- most of them their final chance.

This year’s Charis Prep roster has post-grads who are either cleared, registered with the NCAA, overseas or need to pump up their test scores. There are no secrets. On his roster, he lists their academic and accreditation status all on the same line.

Charis Prep isn’t for everyone, but for the guys who crave that one last look -- that final chance to earn a scholarship -- Peralta is there to offer up the opportunity. He’s also not going to coddle anyone.

Peralta used to use an egg timer to stay on target with his highly organized and regimented practices. He doesn’t have it anymore, but he’s not wasting a minute of practice time. When you visit Charis, you know to be on time and that you’ll receive a roster, a schedule and a chance to see kids on their final chance.

Peralta’s tight-ship practices are a welcome sight for an evaluator. At many open gyms, you hear sneakers squeaking and zero communication. At Charis, you talk all the time. Peralta is great at getting his teams to communicate.

This season, Charis has three to five kids who will end up with scholarships. They all know there are no guarantees, and each has work to do, but the chance to play in college at a Division I level exists for a handful of guys.

When I told power forward Travis Barnes (Wilson, N.C./Charis Prep) that he has a real good chance to play Division I ball, he looked at me like I had two heads. “You really think so?” he asked. Sure, with max effort on a daily basis, he’ll get his chance. But he’s got little room for error.

“In the last week I’ve gotten the most attention I’ve ever received in my whole life,” Barnes said. He once received a letter from Gardner Webb as a sophomore, but that was it. The 6-foot-7 forward plays with a big motor (he has to) and gobbles up rebounds. Someone will scholarship him.

David O’Brien (Montreal, Canada/Charis) has a shot as a small forward. He’s blue collar. Wing J.T. Miller (Clinton, N.C./Charis) is the leaper on the team. He’s getting low Division I looks. A coach called me on Tuesday and said guard Derrick Herbert (Norcross, Ga./Charis) was good earlier this week.

Peralta called Barnes his next Jimmy Graham. From the man who launched the career of one of the NFL’s best tight ends ... someone’s going to check him out.