LCA Making News
VIDEO (Ottawa Sun): Hoops Saints marching past opposition
February 02, 2012


Neither had most of the opposition, until the Saints started marching away from high school basketball tournaments with championship hardware.

An impressive feat against perennial juggernauts such as the St. Peter Knights, St. Patrick’s Irish and St. Matthew Tigers — one they hope to repeat as the National Capital Invitational tips off Thursday — considering the tiny Orleans private school doesn’t even have a gymnasium.

And the fact that approximately half the school’s senior class is on the squad.

And the fact that eight of the boys on the fledgling team only arrived from their native Bahamas in August on student visas to a school with no athletic program.

LCA principal Mike Karpishka likens the story to a modern-day tale of David and Goliath. And like all great Biblical verse, this one has it all — a leap of faith, an act of God, and a giantslayer armed with a basketball in place of a sling and stone.

But it all began with a case of mistaken identity, courtesy of Google.

“I got a call (in April 2011), and I couldn’t really understand the gentleman, but he was asking about placing two of his senior boys,” recalls Karpishka from the Orleans YMCA that has become the Saints’ practice court.

“I’m thinking to myself, ‘I don’t have a basketball team, I don’t even have a gymnasium.’ ”

Turns out that gentleman, now-athletic director Ray Evans, had called Orleans looking for a school with the same name in North Carolina.

By the end of the conversation, Evans had been offered a job to launch and develop the Saints’ athletic program.

A few months later, he arrived in Orleans with his students in tow.

A few months after that, they brought home their first championship, besting St. Matthew in a tournament hosted by Ashbury College.

“We’re making some noise in Ottawa. It’s been a fun year,” says Karpishka.

Evans admits there was some trepidation, and a lot of soul-searching before making the leap to Ottawa.

They arrived in the capital just as hurricane season descended on the islands, and for the first few days, no calls were getting through.

Five of the boys now board with Evans in Orleans, while another three live with student-coach Lea Marte and her family in Plantagenet.

“It’s been adventurous,” says Evans. “It’s a real adjustment. Some of (the boys) were hoping for snow because we didn’t have any snow until Christmas Eve, and when it came down it was like, ‘Okay, it can stop now.’ ”

By the time the dust had settled, it was too late for the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association to add the Saints to its regular season schedule, so the team entered, and won, as many tournaments as they could.

“We should have been allowed to be put on the schedule. All it took was the click of one finger on the computer to add one game to the schedule for each team. There was space on the calendar.

“It is what it is,” says Evans, before adding with a touch of bravado, “but the best team in Ottawa may not have a chance to represent Ottawa at OFSSAA.”

Karpishka now recognizes the challenges of launching a new program in the face of the establishment.

“If I had known, I would have fought harder back in October,” he says. “You can see the passion coming out of these boys, and my passion as this ministry goes forward is to help them get noticed, because they don’t have these opportunities back home.”

The opportunity is already paying dividends.

The Saints’ games are broadcast via an iPhone app called ustream. It’s already made the boys something of a phenomenon back home, landing them on the front page of the Nassau Guardian, and catching the attention of college recruiters.

Two seniors, co-captains Justin Smith and Troshant Williams, are already being sought by top U.S. Division II schools.

“When you look at the budgets we’re competing against, the department heads we’re competing against, the gymnasiums and the facilities that they have,” says Karpishka, “we’re in awe, and yet the boys have heart, and we’re willing to fight for that, and you can see that in every game with the opportunity that’s presented to them.”