OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - A private school known across the Southeast for attracting top talent from around the globe actually resides right here in South Mississippi.
Grace Baptist Academy is a small private school in Ocean Springs that was established in 1968.
”Not many people know about us,” said Brad Shauf, the school’s head basketball coach. “We are really small. We have about 45 students in K through 12.”
However, some of those students and their transcendent talent on the basketball court is starting to change that.
”I feel like this school is hidden gem,” said team captain Clav Alvarez.
The star point guard hails from Australia, but he is far from the only competitor that is playing away from home. Many of the players have traveled thousands of miles to attend Grace Baptist Academy.
”That’s what makes it special, that we can bring kids from all over the country to play and find talent from out of the country and come play American basketball,” said Alvarez.
On Tuesday night, the boys did just that, taking on the Moss Point Tigers in a home game.
”I am really excited because the past two years, we don’t play schools around here,” said Alvarez. “We always have to go somewhere else to play. So this is a really big thing for us.”
The boys didn’t disappoint, using their superior size and shooting ability to defeat the Tigers 66 to 37. The Grace Baptist Eagles were happy with the home court victory but even happier for the chance to show South Mississippi that they are the real deal.
Normally, the team travels all over the Southeast in search of games but with the pandemic going on, they are forced to stick closer to home now.
The team usually competes in the Texas Christian Athletic League but COVID-19 has caused an even crazier season than usual. The team weren’t originally set to play the Tigers but were thankful when the opportunity to play someone local came about.
“I got a phone call and they said ‘Hey coach, we need a game.’ I said ‘Hey, we will play!’” said Coach Shauf. “Around here, we need the exposure. We already have it outside the Gulf Coast but here we is where we would like to be able to play at least some so people are at least familiar with us.”
Still, schoolwork comes before basketball. Some of the players point to the one-on-one guidance as something that betters them as they attempt to make the jump to college.
”Being in a school with a small teacher-to-student ratio is very good for the incoming guys to learn and get good grades for college,” said senior center Aidan Gardiner.
For Coach Shauf, that’s what it is all about: bettering young men on and off the court, strengthening their relationship with God, and helping kids get to college.
The Grace Baptist Academy Eagles are now 11-and-1 after Tuesday’s big victory against the Moss Point Tigers.