Chance meeting opens new door for former Jaguar player

Jamie Quarles followed his heart and found himself away from home in a familiar place.

 

The 2004 Richmond Academy honors graduate contemplated majoring in biology at Augusta State. But during his sophomore season, Quarles decided to stick with his first love -- basketball.

Upon graduating Augusta State with a health and physical education degree last year, Quarles wanted to be a graduate assistant but he was spurned by Georgia College & State and The Citadel. Then one day he ran into his friend William Avery at the boys club.

The meeting proved to be fruitful. Avery -- the former Westside High School standout who transferred to Oak Hill Academy before playing at Duke and in the NBA -- mentioned a job opening at Oak Hill, a boarding school. He gave Quarles a number and a recommendation.

The Mouth of Wilson, Va., school needed a head basketball coach for its red team -- the lesser known of the two varsity squads. The gold team is a seven-time national championship program which features major Division I talent.

"I didn't know much about the school," Quarles said. "I did know Oak Hill was a powerhouse."

The Augusta native took the job, moving four hours away from home. Quarles called it "a big adjustment" moving to a small campus where the 200 students live in dorms, eat in cafeterias, have no personal television and limited access to the Internet. And if he needed to make a Wal-Mart run, it was a 45-minute, one-way trip.

The 22-year-old Quarles remained busy his first year. Usually, he'd awake at 7 a.m. every weekday and be in chapel by 7:45. He taught six of seven periods -- three history classes, three physical education classes.

He also coached 12 players with little help -- he had just one part-time assistant. But Quarles instilled discipline and a solid work ethic. His team responded with a 22-6 campaign.

"I was able to learn a lot and make my own mistakes," Quarles said about his initial coaching experience.

Quarles learned how to coach at Augusta State, where he served as a backup point guard. He watched head coach Dip Metress build the Jaguars into a winner on the court. The Jaguars went 11-17 the season before Quarles and Metress entered together. But Quarles became part of a program that put together four consecutive winning seasons, including a 2007 Peach Belt Conference regular season championship and an appearance in the 2008 Division II national championship game.

Quarles soaked up knowledge from Metress and also learned specific drills and other coaching methods from assistants Robbie McKinlay and Lenny Carlson.

In the off-season, Quarles worked camps at Clemson, Duke, Stanford and Augusta State. This summer, he's working camps with Metress and Augusta State athletic director Clint Bryant.

"I'm just trying to learn as much as I can," Quarles said.

He plans to return to his job at Oak Hill on Aug. 30. School starts back after Labor Day.

Quarles said he wants to eventually get back into college basketball. And the former Mr. ASU believes he could one day lead his alma mater.

"I'm young. I don't have any responsibilities," Quarles said. "Why don't I go for it all? Why couldn't I coach at Augusta State one day?"

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.