When Mark Grayson decided to attend Augusta Preparatory Day School for his senior year, he discovered there was a lot to learn.
Grayson had been home schooled since the first grade, and through the years he also had studied the art of basketball, honing his court skills and fueling the dream of one day playing collegiately.
Then he came to a crossroad - Eagle Sports, the local home-school association athletic program, dropped basketball. Subsequently, Grayson beat a path to Prep, where he soon received a little history lesson.
"When I came here, everyone asked, 'Why are you here?"' I said for basketball," Grayson said. "Everyone was like, 'Well, you came to the wrong place."'
Glen Miller was in the same boat. He was a home-schooler with considerable basketball ability, and switched to Augusta Prep so he'd have a place to play hoops this season.
Like Grayson, Miller was aware that the Cavaliers had struggled to win games the past few years.
"I knew that if I really wanted to go somewhere for the best sports teams, this was probably not the school to go to," Miller said.
Thanks in part to the addition of Grayson and Miller, Prep's hard times on the hardwood are history.
At the midpoint of the 2002-03 campaign, the Cavs already have won more games than they did during their previous season.
Grayson guides the squad at point guard, where he dishes out assists (2.3 per game) and provides a defensive spark (31 steals). He is second on the team in scoring, while Miller paces Prep with 13.2 points per game.
Miller, a freshman guard, has exhibited exceptional range, hitting 25 of 58 3-point attempts through 11 games.
Augusta Prep coach Kevin Furtado says the newcomers' impact goes beyond individual numbers.
"The team is 8-3, and that's the key stat," Furtado said. "That exceeds my expectations for where we would be at this point of the season."
Still, Prep's sudden success isn't a complete surprise.
"I knew we could compete, based on the players they had coming back," Miller said. "I thought a lot of teams would be in for a surprise, which they are. Nobody expected us to be this good."
Miller and Grayson have had no trouble adjusting to athletics; they also have managed the switch of school regimens.
"They have really fit in with the makeup of our school, which isn't easy to do," Furtado said. "Augusta Prep has a very structured academic environment, so I was worried about how they would adjust, but I think they're enjoying it."
Grayson has found that schoolwork is more demanding at Augusta Prep, and he misses one thing in particular about home schooling. "The biggest down right now is having to get up early in the morning," he said.
For Miller, the change has made him more attentive to his work habits.
"School-wise, it's been a lot different. I'm not used to sitting in a classroom taking notes," Miller said. "There's a little bit more responsibility on my part."
Some things haven't changed, though - when they have free time, Miller and Grayson are working on basketball.
"Mark and Glen play at the Y every day, and that's why they're so good," Furtado said. "They love basketball, and the other kids are feeding off that. They've been great additions to the team. That's how Augusta Christian does it in basketball - they add a couple of talented new players every year."
Augusta Christian has used that formula to win six straight Region 4-AAA basketball crowns. With the Lions lurking, along with several other solid region squads, Augusta Prep is about to face a tough stretch.
For Grayson and Miller, the upcoming battles will reveal how much they've really learned this year at Prep.
"I've had friends from Augusta Christian tell me how badly we're going to get beaten when we play them," Miller said. "We'll see. I have more determination going into the second half of the season. We have some really dedicated players."
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