Apache Paschall was a desperate man three months ago. The CHSAA Class AA state playoffs were approaching and the then-St. Michael Academy girls basketball coach was trying to find suitable — and big enough — places for his nationally ranked team to practice in.
Every day was a new place. The Eagles trekked up to the Harlem PAL and down to Baruch College. St. Nicholas of Tolentine in The Bronx was a hike, but that was also one of their destinations.
“Anywhere we could find a gym,” Paschall said.
That will no longer be a problem. St. Michael Academy, which has a small, basement gym with cement columns reaching onto the court, will be closing its doors in June after 136 years. Paschall announced Friday that he and his powerhouse team will land at Nazareth in East Flatbush. The players will have a home and finally a gym they deserve.
“The court is regulation,” junior guard Allysia Rohlehr said. “They don’t have columns.”
Nazareth’s gym isn’t the most beautiful one in the city. But for what was probably the best girls basketball team in the country without a legitimate practice space, it’s going to be like heaven.
“Anything is nicer than St. Michael’s,” junior forward Taylor Ford joked.
Paschall said that assistant coach Ron Kelley is “salivating” over the possibility of running real drills, wind sprints and suicides. But it isn’t just practice that intrigues the coach. St. Mike’s didn’t host a non-league game at its Midtown Manhattan school in 10 years — Paschall had to scour the area for road games. That won’t be the case anymore. Paschall said he’s even thinking about hosting a tournament at Nazareth this winter.
“Now we can actually have a team come in and play us,” he said. “We’re working on getting one of those teams from Cali out here.”
While the gym has the new Lady Kingsmen excited, travel is going to be difficult for some of them. Rohlehr and Darius Faulk will both be coming from Long Island. Bra’Shey Ali lives in New Jersey, incoming freshman Bianca Cuevas is from The Bronx, and Ford and Brianna Sidney are Queens residents. St. Michael Academy’s West 33rd Street home – near Penn Station – was ideal.
“It was the perfect location,” Rohlehr said. “It was easy to get to for everybody.”
Rohlehr plans on taking the Long Island Railroad, a subway and a bus and leaving her Island Park home at around 5:45 a.m. Ford said she’ll have to take two trains and a bus. But this is what the former Eagles wanted. They were going to go wherever Paschall, in conjunction with their parents, decided.
“It’s worth it,” Ford said. “We’re all gonna be together and we’re gonna make a name for Nazareth.”
A real gym is just icing on the cake.