Nick Carroll has a deep connection with basketball. Carroll grew up in St. Paul and attended Cretin-Derham High School. He went on to play for Hamline University and graduated in 2010. Carroll then began a coaching career with St. Thomas University and St. John’s College.
When Carroll was in high school, it was difficult getting his information to prospective college programs, he says. In 2005 and 2006, when he was working on finding the right college, email was available, but not as commonly used as it is today, especially for communication between high school students and coaches. “The system was archaic,” says Carroll. “Coaches would leave messages on house phones, and sometimes students wouldn’t get them.”
When he was coaching college, “It was the same pain,” says Carrol. “You want centralized information about a wide range of players. It was tough to get that information, even about Twin Cities players.”
So to make information more accessible to colleges, in March 2012, Carroll started Northstar Hoops Report, “to bring visibility to players across the state," Carroll says.
While Carroll was working on Northstar Hoops Report, he also coached Minnesota Magic’s summer team, where he met Jake Phillips, who was also coaching the Magic. Phillips was a 2007 graduate of Carleton College and had been a point guard on the basketball team. Phillips was just starting in University of Minnesota’s MBA program.
Phillips contacted Carroll and told him he was in an entrepreneurship class and wanted to look at Carroll’s business as it was created. Phillips offered to work with Carroll pro bono.
“At first, I didn’t have aspirations to have a big business,” says Carroll. “But we started to see that [the Hoops Report] could be [expanded] into other states, sports and genders.” The two then started Northstar Girls Hoops and Northstar Football News.
“Business went well,” says Carroll. “We were enjoying it. We were able to hire writers and get subscribers, but it wasn’t substantial,” he says.
Then in April 2015, they launched Prep Hoops Iowa, their first effort outside Minnesota. Prep Hoops now operates in 31 states for boys basketball, eight states for girls basketball, and seven states for volleyball, through Prep Dig. They organize 20 boys basketball tournaments around the country and about 60 showcases. They have 11 full-time employees, and an office in Maple Grove.
Carroll and Phillips will launch a recruiting business this year to help high school players market themselves to colleges. “[The recruiting process] is a huge pain for families," Carroll says. “It’s [like] seeking out a real estate agent to find the right house. It’s to help find the colleges that meet the needs and skill levels of the players, and help the athletes package themselves to a school that would work for the them and their families.”