Grace Baptist Academy basketball program brings international players to the Coast
Over the past six years, Grace Baptist Academy’s boys basketball program has become a hub on the Gulf Coast for international players to attend and excel on the Coast.
This year’s Eagle squad is comprised of seven Australians, a Rwandan, and a Canadian. Despite their difference nationalities and cultures, these players have found something that bridges any differences they may have: the game of basketball.
Over at Grace Baptist Academy, Head Coach Brad Shauf is helping players from across the globe make their dreams come true on the hardwood right here in South Mississippi.
Through its Timothy Project, the small Baptist school in Ocean Springs has developed a boarding program for young basketball players to come to the United States and boost their chances of earning a college basketball scholarship.
GBA travels all across the southeast region playing in tournaments and taking on some of the most competitive teams in the south. In December, the Eagles even went up against some Coast teams, defeating Moss Point 65-37 and Stone High 59-36. “We want to be known as a stepping stone to the college level. It’s not anything personal with any other schools. We aren’t necessarily competing with the same market. We don’t get our kids from a bunch of schools around here. We’re providing a service. So, what we want to be known as kinda that team on the Coast that’s different.”
Although the Eagles may be relatively unknown on the Coast, their exciting style of play, featuring plenty of effortless slam dunks, have made a splash on social media, which helps catch the eyes of college coaches. Center Aidan Gardiner from Geraldton, Australia has been here just six months and has already picked up an offer. “Back in Australia I didn’t have college looks as I did now. I got here. I played– I think I only played two or three months of playing basketball over here and I had Montevallo out of Alabama, they offered me.”
For Guard Shai Fassom, getting a chance to play abroad in high school was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. “I just think a lot of kids in Australia see it as a dream to go play overseas. And I kinda thought the first time I’d get over here was college. But once I got this offer, I was just like, yeah. I was so happy.”
Shauf say watching his players’ dreams of playing basketball at the next level is the most rewarding part of his job. “Our mission, essentially is to do that. It is to provide a service to them to reach the next level. And that’s our focus.”
Grace Baptist is celebrating senior night tomorrow as they host Pontchartrain Christian out of Slidell.