What Jermel President saw on the first day of practice wasn’t at all what he expected.
“I was actually shocked,” Oceanside’s head basketball coach said.
President couldn’t have been sure of what to expect. A first-year coach attempting to construct a basketball program from infancy at a new charter school in Mount Pleasant (that isn’t actually in Mount Pleasant yet), things could have gone a lot of ways.
What President ended up with on that first day of practice in a gym of a Baptist church in North Charleston were legitimate ball players, several of them. Seasoned veterans, promising underclassmen, a blend of skill and athleticism, all hungry to be part of something new.
“I wasn’t sure what we’d have. In high school basketball, a lot of times, you have about three or four players that really make the team,” said President, a former point guard at College of Charleston. “When I saw what we did have, I thought we really had something nice. I can go five (players) in, five out all day long because of how talented they are. I was surprised but also happy to have it. The hard part then became how to put it all together.”
It didn’t take long to piece together. Oceanside won its first three games of the season by an average margin of 11 points on the way to winning the Military Magnet Thanksgiving Tournament championship. The Landsharks followed their tournament title run with a 17-point win at Waccamaw on Friday.
“This is a really good group that wants to build something at OCA,” President said. “We didn’t get second-hand players. We got players who can go make it happen.”
Greg Archie has been the catalyst for the Landsharks’ success early this season. As President puts it, “We can’t move without Archie.”
The 6-foot guard is ranked as one of the 50 best seniors in the state. He averaged nearly 20 points per game for Cathedral Academy last season and won MVP honors at the Military Magnet tournament.
“My role is to be more of a leader and to bring intensity to the team, especially on the defensive side,” Archie said. “It’s really cool (playing for President). I love it. I take in everything he tells me because he’s been in my position and he’s been where I want to be. He lets us have freedom and that’s something I enjoy.”
Oceanside attracted transfers from across the Lowcountry. Players from the likes of West Ashley, Wando and Bishop England all came to try something new. The Landsharks have four seniors on its 11-man roster. For comparison’s sake, Oceanside’s football team didn’t have a single senior on its 50-man team. President says veteran leadership has been vital to his team’s early success but counts the play of his underclassmen as being just as important.
Shane McCravy is a versatile 6-foot-4 forward with good athleticism and soft touch who played on Porter-Gaud’s state championship team last season. He’s was one of the few players President was familiar with before the season began as his father, Shane McCravy Sr., was a former teammate of his in college.
Oceanside runs the same motion offense that President learned from Coach John Kresse at College of Charleston. The scheme allows for improvisation. Anyone could be the leading scorer on any given night, which President believes makes the Landsharks more dangerous and has helped build cohesion within his team.
“It wasn’t easy at first but we grew together and we stuck with the system,” Archie said. “We worked harder than anyone else from the first day and we knew we were going to be great, we just had to keep pushing and striving for what we wanted.”
With construction of Oceanside’s school and gym still ongoing, the Landsharks will play mostly road games with a few “home” games hosted at Royal Baptist Church in North Charleston. As a first-year program, Oceanside isn’t eligible to compete in the playoffs this season or next. That adds extra emphasis to the regular season making each game, as President says, a championship match.
“We’re already successful just having uniforms and playing games. All of this was just a thought a year ago,” President said. “We can’t compete in the state tournament so every game is like a championship. That’s what we’re playing for.”
And while Oceanside has enjoyed its early accomplishments on the hardwood, it’s what happens after the final whistle blows that President will use to measure the success of the Landsharks’ inaugural season.
“If we can get our seniors placed and give them opportunities they never had before,” President said. “If we can build something for the future, then that’s real success.”