It’s a school that’s giving young Canadian athletes a closer shot at their basketball dreams – Southwest Academy.
Southwest Academy is housed inside London’s Regina Mundi Catholic High School, a new high performance basketball prep school for high school boys and girls.
The initiative of Southwest Academy was to heighten the competition of basketball for players who plan to continue their careers in university, as well as Division 1 schools in the U.S., or professional basketball.
The academy is in its first year, founded by the men’s head coach, Kevin Barnes.
“The biggest thing about this level of basketball is the commitment,” says Coach Barnes. “You’re here for ten months, and everyday you have multiple basketball related activities, multiple academic activities, social elements, things you have to work through with time management to prepare yourself to be able to be the best person, the best player, the best student that you can be.”
Coach Barnes stresses that the program is focused on academic just as much as the basketball – hoping their students embody the student-athlete description. All Southwest Academy players must abide by the RMC rules and regulations to keep their status as a SW player.
The players range from all over Canada, as far as East Preston, Nova Scotia, and even one player with his closest relatives back in Serbia.
The players say their reason for coming to Southwest was strongly influenced by Coach Barnes, their father figure on and off the court.
“Coach Barnes? He’s a very enthusiastic and motivational coach,” says Point Guard/Shooting Guard, Dakelle Brooks, of East Preston, N.S.
“It’s that passion, I’ve learned that from him.,” says Shooting Guard, Quinton Duckworth, of Ottawa. “He taught me that you’ve got to always want to win.”
The men’s team has intense strength and conditioning twice a week, practices five times a week, and home and away basketball games. They’re on a tight schedule, but the level of commitment gives the men exposure in several NCAA U.S. sanctioned events, ultimately leading them to future scouting opportunities.
“My goal is to go to a Division 1 school in the states,” says Captain/Point Guard, Xavier Ochu, of Milton, Ont. “So far I have a couple schools that are interested in me.”
The men have ongoing support from the London community, from organizations like the London Ramblers, a London basketball program ages 8-19. The Ramblers often open the men’s home games with appearances and warm ups with the team.
“Southwest Academy is here to help elite athletes reach their goals,” says Coach Barnes. “Through that, we also want to develop community basketball here in London.”
Southwest Academy Basketball is stepping stone, and door that’s held wide open for possibility – ultimately leading them one step closer to their hoop dreams.