Aiken school on quest to become a national power

Adelphi Christian coach John Jordan (left) has assembled top-level talent and hopes to build a nationally-ranked boys basketball program at the school formerly known as Aiken Christian.

AIKEN --- Greg Wilson was playing high school basketball at North Myrtle Beach a year ago. James Webb was at Curtis Baptist, and Mike Stephenson was at Glenn Hills. The 6-foot-11 Korab Imami was playing in Kosovo, and veteran boys basketball coach John Jordan was recovering from a heart attack.

The fact that they all ended up on the same team, practicing as a private school basketball squad in a small, relatively unknown church gym in Aiken is almost far-fetched.

But Jordan, now the head coach, athletic director and interim administrator at the newly named Adelphi Christian Academy, is as serious as he can be. He wants to build a nationally ranked high school boys basketball program and is using the school formerly known as Aiken Christian as a base.

"The formula is pretty simple." he said. "No. 1 we play a very tough schedule. We'll play some of the best teams in the country, and the reason behind that is we want to make sure our kids play against the best competition so they get a chance to get recruited."

Step two is to accept basketball players from overseas through a ministry created by Jordan to help athletes from impoverished or war-torn countries. Another step includes leaving the South Carolina Independent School Association, where Aiken Christian had competed for years.

"To do the type of program we're going to do, we had to do that," Jordan said. "Nothing against SCISA, but the level of competition there is not very strong, and we're not trying to load up a team to win the SCISA championship. That's not something we were trying to do at all."

Instead, Jordan has assembled a list of top-level high school recruits in an effort to increase enrollment, make a name for the school and eventually become a national basketball power.

"We're thinking national titles," he said.

Jordan said health problems, which led to open heart surgery in March, forced him to take a step back and part ways with the post-graduate school he was running last year in Asheville, N.C. He came to Aiken seeking a less stressful life without removing himself from the game.

Jordan's first crop of players also includes 6-9 Montenegro native Pavle Raikovic, 6-8 Serb Ognjen Rebic and Aiken High transfers Andrew Williams and Deandre Jackson

He got a look at his vision last week when his team took the court against Oak Hill Academy.

Two days after Oak Hill was ranked No. 3 in the nation by USA Today , Adelphi Christian traveled to Mouth of Wilson, Va., to face the Warriors on their home court. Oak Hill won 95-45, but the fact that a small private school from Aiken stepped onto the same court as one of the nation's top programs was already enough to bring legitimacy to Jordan's quest.

Even before the game, some basketball insiders around the area heard about Jordan's arrival and his résumé, which includes 31 high school players who went on to play in college.

Jordan's reputation and name recognition reached the area basketball community and earned him an early start on building his new program.

"The type of players you see around here now you usually don't see until the second year," he said. "What happened here was the AAU coaches got wind of it, I guess because of my reputation back in North Carolina. ... They had kids lined up that they thought could benefit from this type of thing. That's what we did. We've got quite a few in. We've got a lot of inquiries for next year."

Both Webb and Stephenson said they got to know Jordan through their AAU coaches and the two Augusta prospects left their schools to attend Adelphi Christian.

Stephenson, the brother of former Glenn Hills star Jerel Stephenson, said leaving a more traditional high school program to play for Jordan was a decision made in the best interest of his basketball future.

"I just wanted to go to school for free. I didn't really think I was going to be able to get that at Glenn Hills," Mike Stephenson said. "My AAU coach told me about Coach Jordan. He met me at my house, and we talked about it. He said we were going to play a national schedule. He's put a lot of kids in school. I'm just trying to be like that."

Such moves have become a cause for concern among some area public and private school basketball coaches, who fear they could lose their top prospects to Jordan's program.

"A lot of the existing private and public schools don't understand the concept like they do in North Carolina, so they look at it as more of a threat than it is. I hate that they feel that way," Jordan said. "... We have such a special niche as far as the type of kids that can come to school here. It excludes 80 to 90 percent of the kids in the other schools, so I think their fear is a little unfounded."

Adelphi Christian (5-5) doesn't have a single Augusta or Aiken high school team on its schedule this year. The boys and girls varsity teams will play in a Thanksgiving tournament in Durham, N.C. starting Friday, and they'll play at Ridge View High School in Columbia on Dec. 3.

The home schedule, which will be played at the River of Life Church gym off York Street in Aiken, includes games against Southern Technical College on Dec. 7 and the Australian Junior National Team on Jan. 17.

Five boys players to watch

IVORY DRUMMER, Westside

Senior F, 6-2

ROD HALL, Laney

Senior G/F, 6-2

CHRISTIAN NOBLES, Richmond Acad.

Senior G, 5-8

JESSIE PERNELL, North Augusta

Senior G, 6-1

DON QUARLES, Richmond Acad.

Senior G/F, 6-3

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