JJ Taylor transfers to Kanye West’s Donda Academy

The state’s top junior is leaving for California.

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Kenwood’s JJ Taylor (1) takes drives the ball past Clemente’s Terrell Taylor (33).

Kenwood’s JJ Taylor (1) takes drives the ball past Clemente’s Terrell Taylor (33).

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

The Chicago to California connection continues. Kenwood junior JJ Taylor has transferred to Donda Academy, Kanye West’s new prep school in Simi Valley, California. Taylor announced the move on his Instagram account Friday.

Nimari Burnett was the first local star to transfer to California. Burnett helped lead Morgan Park to a state title as a freshman in 2017 and then left for California.

Next up was Amari Bailey, who never even attended high school in Chicago. He left for Sierra Canyon, California after eighth grade.

The move worked out well for Burnett and Bailey, although they did head to more established schools. At this point, Donda Academy apparently doesn’t even have a building.

It does have basketball stars. Top 100 national talents Zion Cruz, Robert Dillingham, Jakhi Howard and Jalen Hooks all made the move to Donda before Taylor. All four players changed their Instagram profile pictures to black circles after announcing the move to Donda. Taylor’s Instagram picture is now a black circle.

Dillingham and Taylor both took official visits to Kentucky this past weekend. There’s speculation that’s where the Taylor to Donda spark first occurred.


Taylor, a 6-8 guard, started high school at Morgan Park and transferred to Kenwood after head coach Nick Irvin left to take a job at Western Illinois. Irvin’s brother Mike Irvin is the coach at Kenwood and runs the Mac Irvin Fire, the club basketball team Taylor plays with.

Rivals has ranked Taylor No. 4 in its Class of 2023 rankings. ESPN has Taylor No. 6 in the country while 247Sports has him ranked No. 8.

“It’s very important for me to be that player, to live up to it,” Taylor said in July of his top 10 national status. “It means something. There is some pressure that comes with that, and I know and expect people to come at me. But I am ready for it and want that. I have to keep working to maintain it, live up to it, to represent Chicago. I know I’m being watched.”

Kenwood, with Taylor, Darrin Ames, Davius Loury and Trey Pettigrew, was expected to be one of the top two teams in the preseason Super 25. That changes with Taylor out of the picture.

Kenwood coach Mike Irvin says that he is still expecting big things from his team this season.

“I still have five guys that can score 25 on any given night,” Irvin said. “We are loaded. Darrin Ames. Remember the name. Watch out. He’s a superstar in the making. We have another star player in Trey Pettigrew. Darius Robinson is very, very good. We have the number one freshman in the state in Bryce Heard and junior Davius Loury is a star on the verge of breaking into the top 50 in the country.”

Donda Academy is apparently opening the season on Nov. 6 at the Target Center in Minneapolis against Minnesota Prep.

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