St. Mike’s Eagles will re-emerge at Nazareth

The players formerly known as the St. Michael Academy Eagles will be playing their basketball next year at Nazareth in Brooklyn, coach Apache Paschall said on May 7.

Paschall said a decision between Nazareth, Bishop Loughlin and St. Barnabas in The Bronx, all Catholic schools, came down as late as Friday night. The biggest factor was travel. Most of the former Eagles are from Brooklyn or Queens. Loughlin, which just fired coach Rocco Romano two weeks ago, came on too late in the process, Paschall said.

“Most of the [parents] agreed that’s the easiest place to get to,” the coach said. “Both schools (Nazareth and St. Barnabas) are good academically. It was just proximity.”

St. Mike’s announced in March it would close its doors after 136 years. The Eagles won the New York State Federation Class AA title last year and are a perennially nationally ranked group.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Nazareth athletic director Rochelle Murphy said. “People don’t realize that those kids are students who just happen to play basketball. I don’t see it as a big deal about them staying together. When you’re part of a team, you’re part of a family…It’s a good thing for us, too. We didn’t have a team.”

Murphy said the school is happy to have the team, though the unprecedented decision to move an entire squad to another place drew controversy. The new Lady Kingsmen will play in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens, but it was immediately unclear if they would jump up to the Division I league with the likes of powerhouse Christ the King and Bishop Ford.

“I don’t know for sure either, but I don’t think it would make sense to have us in Division II,” Paschall said. “That’s something they gotta figure out.”

Nazareth’s new squad will look a whole lot like St. Mike’s has for the last few years. Paschall will be the head coach and he’ll be joined by longtime assistant Lauren Best and Ron Kelley, provided Kelley doesn’t jump to the college ranks. The nucleus of last year’s team – Division I prospects like Tiffany Jones, Taylor Ford, Allysia Rohlehr and Brianna Sidney – will make the journey to East Flatbush. Freshman Jazmine Hamlet, though, has already transferred to Francis Lewis. The five highly touted freshmen St. Mike’s would have had coming in will also be Lady Kingsmen next year.

The only question marks right now, Paschall said, are Starr Breedlove and Tayshana (Chicken) Murphy. He said he hasn’t spoken to Murphy, a Bishop Loughlin transfer, recently. Sources said both could make the jump to prep school. Paschall said he would welcome them back with open arms, though.

“I don’t turn my back on no kid,” he said.

Paschall is just happy it’s all over. The search for a new school was both time consuming and emotionally draining. It also could not have waited another day, the coach said, because of parental concerns.

After a decade at St. Michael Academy, Paschall is nowhere near getting used to saying he coaches at Nazareth.

“It’s gonna be weird,” he said, “but it’s a new day.”