CARNEYS POINT – A former Catholic high school here is preparing to bounce back as a private school for basketball players.
Olympus Sports expects to occupy the long-vacant site of St. James High School in September, with about 80 students splitting time between the classroom and the basketball court.
The school would serve boys in grades 8 through 12, along with “post-grad” students participating in a gap-year program, Todd Beaman, Olympus Sports’ founder, told the township’s planning board Wednesday.
“Our main thing is to give them the tools they need to go to college” as students and basketball players, he said.
“Every student in this school does take classes,” said Beaman, adding post-grad students could pursue studies at Salem Community College.
The youths also would participate in night basketball games, typically ending by 9 p.m.
The students, largely from outside South Jersey, would live in apartments with adult supervision, said Jamaul Edmonds, the school’s business development director.
Vans would shuttle the youths to and from school, where a cafeteria would offer lunch and dinner.
“It’s not like your traditional school … where everyone lives in the town and the families and the parents come out (for games),” he said.
Board members, who unanimously approved the application, also heard from a current post-grad student, Cherif Kanoute.
A native of Mali in West Africa, Kanoute said he’s spending a year at the school in an effort to improve his appeal to college recruiters.
“I had some offers (last year) that I wasn’t really happy with,” said Knaoute. “I’ve been approached (this year) by a lot of Ivy Leagues. The phone’s ringing and we’re still doing the process of it.”
Olympus Sports, which began as an AAU program in 2015, launched its school one year later with a dozen post-grad students. It expanded to 55 students within two years, while outgrowing facilities in Williamstown, Glassboro and West Berlin.
“We’ve been on the hunt for a campus,” said Beaman, who said he knew of St. James High School from a previous career running basketball camps.
He said the Georgetown Road school would offer basketball camps during its summer break.
Olympus Sports, with a capacity for 500 tuition-paying students in Carneys Point, hopes to expand in the next few years with baseball and football programs, said Beaman.
“We’d like to have other sports but we have to find the right people to build that,” said Beaman.
The former high school closed in 2000 as part of cutbacks by the Diocese of Camden.
Olympus Sports is leasing the building from Georgetown NJ LLC, which acquired the property last year for $775,000 from St. Gabriel the Archangel parish, according to tax records.
Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other beats for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.
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