LCA Making News
Happenstance phone call leads to beautiful basketball relationship (Orleans Online)
January 26, 2012

Mistaken phone call leads to beautiful basketball relationship
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Donald Gibson is one of four students who moved to Ottawa last summer to study and play basketball at Life Christian Academy in Orléans. Fred Sherwin/Photo


A small private school in Orléans is making a big splash on the basketball court and it all started with a happenstance phone call made last April.

Ray Evans runs a basketball program for kids in the Bahamas. With connections at several institutions in the United States and Canada, he's able to find places for them to further their education while pursuing their love of basketball.

While researching potential placements last spring, he did a search for the Life Christian Academy in Hampstead, North Carolina. As fate would have it, the first site that came up was the Life Christian Academy in Orléans.

Without realizing it, Evans called the school and ended up talking to Life Christian Academy principal Mike Karpishka.

"When he started talking I realized pretty quick that he called the wrong number, but I wasn't going to let him off the phone," says Karpishka, recalling their conversation.

After explaining his program, Evans apologized for calling the wrong number and hung up, but he had already touched off a spark in Karpishka whose mind was in full gear. Not long afterwards, he called Evans back and offered him a job.

"I asked him if wanted to be our new athletic director," says Karpishka with a rye smile.

Not only has the Life Christian Academy never had an athletic director before, but they never had a basketball team before. They don't even have a gym. The school is located in the former Ecole Le Presault building on St. Pierre Street behind the KFC on St. Joseph Blvd.

The Academy has 50 students combined, 20 in elementary school and 30 in high school.

Evans was hoping to place two students at the Life Christian Academy in North Carolina. Instead, he accepted Karpishka's offer and brought four students with him. Two of the kids live with him in Orléans, the other two kids live with assistant coach Leah Marte's family in Plantagenet. Their tuition is paid for through donations from their church communities in Freeport.

The Bahamian foursome made an immediate impact. The helped the Saints down the St. Matthew Tigers by a point in the opening game of the Bill Wren Invitational Tournament and made it all the way to the semi-finals before losing to the St. Peter Knights.

They applied to join the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association, but the league had already been formed and the schedule had been put together. So instead of playing in the NCSSAA, they've been palying in tournaments.

After making the semi-finals in the Bill Wren Tournament, they won the Ashbury College tournament and finished third in a tounament in Toronto.

They played the Tigers in an exhibition on Tuesday and ended up beating the odds-on favourites to win the senior boys 'AA' championship on a buzzer beater in double overtime without their captain and star point guaard Justin Smith who was nursing an injury.

With fewer than 30 students, Life Christian Academy is considered an 'A' school. There's little doubt that if they were playing in the NCSSAA, they would win the 'A' chgampionship and earn the right to represent the National Capital Region at the OFSAA provincial championships.

Technically, the NCSSAA could select them to represent the association but it is highly unlikely, which is unfortunate for the three players, including Smith, who will be graduating this year.

Evans and Karpishka have already indicated to the NCSSAA that they want to join the league next year. Evans plans to rejig the team with a couple of players from the Bahamas, and two recruits from Africa who are both over
six and a half feet tall.

In the meantime, they have two more tournaments left on the their schedule and they plan to go on a cross-Canada tour out to Calgary this summer.

The whole thing has been an incredible adventure for the players who have experieced a number of firsts, including their first snowstorm and their first Christmas away from home.

"When coach told us we were coming to Canada, we were all shocked. Everyone told us it was really cold. I was afraid to come here," says Smith who recently signed a scholarship with Union College, a Division II school in Kentucky.

Fellow Bahamian Troshant Williams is also being heavily recruited by several schools in the States, both at the NAIA level and Division II.

The other two players from the Bahamas are Torrez Hepburn and Donald Gibson. The team is rounded out by three local kids; Christopher Costance, who is originally from Haiti; Stephen Brant and Marcus Campos who is originally from Mexico.

The entire exercise has been a win-win-win situation for the school, the players and Coach Evans who plans to move his family to Ottawa later this year.

"It's an opportunity for me and for my family, including my beautiful wife who allowed me to follow my dream," says Evans.

Life Christian Academy in Orléans has been turning heads on the basketball court this season thanks to the addition of four players from the Bahamas and their coach, Ray Evans. Fred Sherwin/Photo