The day starts at 5 a.m. sharp, when Greg Archie’s early-morning alarm clock blares for the first time.
The bus swings by his North Charleston home around 6:45 a.m. and takes him on the hour-long trek to McClellanville, where new charter school Oceanside Collegiate Academy currently holds its classes because its Mount Pleasant campus is still in the early days of construction.
By 7:50, Archie arrives at the school, where he currently is enrolled in English 4, Art Appreciation, U.S. History, Statistics and Personal Finance.
Class runs until noon, he hops back on the bus afterwards and by 1:30 p.m., basketball practice begins — typically at Royal Baptist Church in North Charleston. Practice ends at 4, then Archie finally goes home to study.
It’s a balancing act that involves long bus rides between North Charleston and McClellanville, but it’s a labor of love for Archie, who transferred to Oceanside his senior year intent on earning a college scholarship to play basketball.
Oceanside’s format is such that student athletes spend half of the day in the classroom and the other half competing in their respective sports. A month into basketball season, Archie, the team’s leading scorer, has two schools interested in him: Lincoln Memorial and South Carolina-Aiken, both Division-II schools.
The leader of a 7-1 Landsharks team, Archie has quickly found a sense of validation in his decision to transfer from Cathedral Academy in North Charleston.
“I love it,” said the 6-foot guard of his new school.
“When I first heard about the college courses they were going to give out and that I’d be able to get college credits for my senior year going into my freshman year next year, it made me really want to come here.”
He’s not alone.
In addition to Archie, four other seniors on Oceanside’s boys basketball team decided to transfer to play for head coach Jermel President, a former College of Charleston star, and test out the school’s unconventional format.
Daquan Washington transferred from Bishop England, Deontre Floyd and Kenan Huggins each left West Ashley, and Tyler Kirkpatrick moved from Asheville, N.C. Behind Archie and their experience, Oceanside has only dropped one game — to the school’s sister charter school in Columbia, Gray’s Collegiate Academy.
But for as smoothly as the boys basketball program has run both on and off the court, President — also the school’s interim athletic director — is the first to admit Oceanside as a whole hasn’t gone without its struggles.
Before the school ever opened, some coaches at traditional public and private schools were wary of the Oceanside concept and what they saw as potential recruiting issues.
Then, when it became public knowledge that the Mount Pleasant campus in Carolina Park would not be ready in time for the school year and that students would have to bus to McClellanville for class, about 300 students canceled their plans to attend, President said. That was about half of the school’s 600-student capacity.
Once class started, the football team took a major hit when Charlie Stubbs, the team’s head coach and the school’s athletic director at the time, suddenly resigned two games into the season.
President was immediately thrust into the athletic director role right as his season was about to begin, and he wondered how he might balance his established job as the basketball coach with a new job he didn’t expect to have.
“I got a little worried for a little while,” he admitted.
“As long as we’re moving and getting stuff done, we’re going to be effective. We’re learning as we go. I knew coming into it that there was going to be a lot of turbulence, a lot of problems. That’s the main thing. But I didn’t know what the problems were going to be.”
Now, with the help of his long-time friend Dave Spurlock, a 42-year employee of the Charleston County School District, President has someone to help handle the traditional duties of athletic director while he coaches.
He estimated that an average of two to three kids are transferring to Oceanside every day, and he is optimistic that number will continue to grow as the school conquers some initial growing pains.
“We’re looking for that enrollment to increase. It will increase our athletic opportunities and sports as well, because that gives us more talent across the board, and that’s something we’re looking forward to, too,” said President.
“I know what basketball’s done for me. It was only right to get kids that have got the ability and opportunity and put them in the right situation to be successful as well.”