QUINCY (WGEM) — The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is advising consumers to use caution when doing business with Joel Box Evolution Basketball, a youth basketball training and select traveling team program based in Quincy, Illinois.
Box is a Rockford native and former Christian Life basketball star.
The BBB states that consumers allege the company failed to honor agreements to hold camps and coach select teams, failed to issue refunds, and provided overall poor customer service.
The company’s owner, Joel Box, recently filed bankruptcy, identifying some of these consumers as creditors. The business has an “F” rating, the lowest on BBB’s scale, due to several recent unanswered customer complaints.
A woman from Edina, Missouri, told BBB she paid nearly $700 in January 2019 for her 11-year-old son to play on a select team and participate in a camp directed by Box. The woman said the camp sessions rarely were held and the team her son signed up for didn’t participate in any of the promised tournaments.
While the woman was able to secure a refund from a third-party company that handled the scheduling for the camp, she was told by Box that she would not receive a refund for a $400 fee she paid for the select team.
“My son used money from his savings account to pay to be on the team,” the woman told BBB. “He’s duping kids.”
A woman from Vandalia, Missouri, told BBB she paid Box $350 in December 2018 for her 13-year-old daughter to participate in a camp held by Box. The woman said Box asked the family if their daughter would like to play on a select team that would play in tournaments throughout the winter, spring and summer. The woman said she paid an additional $1,500 for the traveling team.
The woman said the camp was not held, nor did the travel basketball team ever get off the ground. The team held no practices, didn’t play in any tournaments or provide uniforms or other gear that was promised.
“He’s hurting these kids,” the woman said. “I’m not that concerned with the money we lost, but I don’t want to see this happen again to other kids and families.”
A Fowler, Illinois, woman said she paid Box $725 for her 9-year-old son to participate in a camp and play on a travel team led by Box. She said her son was able to participate in one camp session, but others were canceled for various excuses given by Box.
“We lost a lot of money,” the woman told BBB. “The whole point of this was to get my son some extra practice and games.”
13 WREX spoke with Box over the phone Wednesday and he tells us the accusations against him and his camps are not fair and are the result of a number of extenuating circumstances.
“Parents have been complaining about a lot of this stuff that is absolutely false,” Box said.
Box said he was recently arrested for something he “did not do.” While specific details surrounding that arrest are unclear, Box tells us the case ended up being dropped. But he said the community’s reaction to his arrest hurt his ability to perform the camps and training he promised.
“There were people in Quincy spreading rumors [about the arrest] that weren’t true,” Box said. “None of those accusations were true.”
Box says he sat down with the parents and players, meeting with them individually or in a group, telling them that the accusations they were hearing weren’t true. But during that time, Box says he had a number of coaches who he had recruited to help run these summer teams back out.
“It left me in a situation where these parents had paid for summer stuff and coaches pulled out and so it kind of left me with my back against the wall.”
Box does admit while this situation was ongoing he did take a leave of absence to deal with a medical issue and “clear his head” of all that was going on.
“During this time a lot of parents were upset that I was taking this leave of absence, but I have no way, shape or form ever stopped my communication with them,” Box said. “I know that people are trying to say, ‘hey I paid for these workouts’ or ‘you took things and ran.’ That’s not the case at all.”
Box did address why refunds were not given to a number of parents, even though they felt as though they did not receive what was promised to them.
“There is a no refund policy once I start workouts–which I had,” Box said.
He went onto say that he did feel like he did owe some people refunds because they signed up a different way and likely were not aware of the no refund policy listed on his website.
“Obviously when you are dealing with quite a bit of kids and you get 40 or 50 people at one time asking for a refund that can be a large amount of money.”
Box said he learned about the BBB warning on Wednesday but says he’s not as worried about responding to them as he is the parents that he is involved with.
When asked if he believes he owes these parents or kids who believe they have been slighted in what they paid for, Box says yes, but not in the form of a refund.
“This is what I do for a living, so obviously I have bills and things I have to pay for too. I never planned for anything like this to happen,” Box said. “I have every intention of coming back down there to run my academies for the people who have signed up,” Box said.
The business is not registered with the Illinois Secretary of State. According to federal court records, Box filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in May 2019 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Among the names listed on Box’s nonpriority unsecured claims were two line items for “Evolution Basketball Parents and Participants” and “Evolution Parents” totaling just over $75,000.
“Because of his stature in the community as a former star basketball player, people trusted Mr. Box to teach and coach their children,” said Mara Clingingsmith, regional director for BBB’s Quincy office. “If he is unable to refund money, the right thing to do is complete the camps he was paid to do.”
Box did not respond to a BBB letter regarding what remedial steps the business was taking to address its pattern of complaints. Box did respond to an email sent to him by a BBB investigator. He wrote that he has a no refunds policy.
“I have ran my program for over 4 years without any problems,” Box wrote. “I have communicated with parents. Those parents (who filed complaints) are upset when it was difficult to get ahold of me as I was out of the country but they don’t understand that.”
On Box’s email signature, he lists himself as the founder/executive director of Midwest Select AAU, pro scout for Fiba International Sports and a skills coach.
BBB offers the following tips for dealing with youth sports programs:
- Research any business and its owners carefully before paying any money. Check the company’s BBB
- Business Profile at bbb.org or by calling 888-996-3887.
- Ask for references and contact them. Talk to others who have participated with the program before. Most organizations – from youth sports teams to dance studios – have an online presence that can help seek out parents who have experience with the organization.
- Ask for what your money is paying. An organization should be able to detail all of its expenses for the team.
- The most common fees are for court/field rental, uniforms and tournament or league fees. A reputable organization will give its members an itemized list of those fees.
- Find out what a uniform entails. Costs and equipment for sports varies. Are helmets and pads included for football, hockey and lacrosse, or are players expected to purchase or rent these items for a fee? Does the program provide bats and gloves in baseball and softball? Is loaner equipment available in good condition and suitable for your child’s size, age and ability?
- Know how much your child will play. The parents, player and coach should have clear expectations for how often the child will play. Unlike recreational leagues where everyone plays equal time, most competitive travel teams do not use the same philosophy. Research a program’s philosophy with respect to playing time before agreeing to join the organization.
- Find out the program’s refund policy. What happens if your child wants to quit or is injured? The refund policy should be clearly spelled out by the organization and explained to the parents and players before the seasons begins.
- In the event of a bankruptcy, file a claim with the court. You will receive a notice of bankruptcy from the court and instructions on where to file a proof of claim and the deadline to file. Act promptly as deadlines are strictly enforced in bankruptcy cases.