NEWS: Job Corps team seeks third straight national title

NEWS: Job Corps team seeks third straight national title




March 6, 2018

The expectations are high for students in the Job Corps program in Brunswick.

But the basketball players on the center’s team hold themselves to an even higher standard.

The Eagles are seeking a third consecutive national championship against Job Corps basketball teams from across the nation. The team, currently 26-0, is going for its third consecutive undefeated season.

To go 29-0 and complete the three-peat, the Brunswick team will have to win the upcoming national tournament — but it won’t have to travel far.

Brunswick is the host city for the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four and the national championship games, which will be played Friday and Saturday in the gyms at Needwood Middle School and the gym at the Job Corps center in Brunswick. The games are open to the public and there is no admission.

As the overall No. 1 seed, the Eagles get a bye the first round and will have to play their first game 6:30 p.m. Friday. If they advance, Brunswick will play Saturday morning and later in the day for the national championship game.

Coach Ashton Stripling said the possibility of playing three games in two days is not as taxing as it sounds.

“It’s not really a challenge,” he said. “They do it in the AAU.”

The team competes against a wide variety of opponents during the regular season, including high school, prep school and small college teams. They traveled as far as Alabama to play in region games.

While the Eagles are the team to beat in their bracket, the Job Corps team in the opposite bracket from Chester, Va., which has a 25-0 record. The teams could be on a collision course.

The Eagles have more at stake than preserving a perfect season, and that could prove to be an advantage.

They have not lost a home game since the 2013 season. Stripling said the home-court advantage will help and that gives him added confidence his team can finish the season with another unblemished record.

“I hope to kiss that trophy Saturday night,” Stripling said.

Win or lose, the expectations for players are high for good reason. Any student entering the Job Corps program is required to earn a GED if they don’t already have one and to excel in the job training program they choose, said Mel Gaines, the center’s director.

Players are expected to have perfect attendance, be punctual and excel in the classroom

“It gives students an opportunity to have long-term goals,” he said. “We won’t keep them here just to play ball.”

The program has also attracted the attention of college basketball programs. Eighteen students from the Brunswick center have earned scholarships the past four years by playing on the center’s team.

The team has also lost players because they have been offered jobs because of the training they received.

“We set the bar very high for the basketball players,” Gaines said. “They know if they are on the basketball team the expectations are high.”