SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — One thing to appreciate about the sport of basketball, says Benedictine Military School coach Cyrus Hunter, is the sense of togetherness it brings to fans and players alike.
“It brought these three together, and they’re still friends,” Hunter said of the student-athletes whose basketball skills he’s worked to build since they were each sixth graders.
Seniors Gowan Smith, Alvin Adjei and Andrew Muller all say their time training with Hunter at the Jenkins Athletic Club has helped them excel on their high school teams.
That success stemmed well beyond the court and into their academics.
“You look at it and you start seeing, ‘well, if I’m playing good on the basketball court, then I want to keep my grades up so I can play,’” said Smith, who’s attending Auburn University in the fall.
“I think we have a lot of credit due to Coach Cyrus,” the Benedictine Military School basketball and lacrosse player told WSAV.com NOW.
Muller, who has a place waiting for him at Southern Methodist University once he graduates from Savannah Country Day School, says playing both tennis and basketball while juggling advanced-level school work has developed his time management skills.
“At my school, the workload is very heavy and you know, I gotta get up early and go to practice, and then I gotta work out with [Coach Hunter]. So it’s really paid off and helped for college,” Muller said.
Doing well academically was such a priority that Muller made the tough choice to give up shooting hoops during his senior year.
“I’ve been playing basketball ever since I could pick one up,” Muller shared.
“He had to quit basketball to academically qualify to go to college, so he made a big sacrifice,” Hunter said.
For Adjei, who also attends Savannah Country Day School, hitting the books has paid off in the form of offers from each of the five colleges he applied to.
“That is amazing,” his mother, Dora Adjei, told WSAV.com NOW.
“He’s a good student, but I mean, you send out that application and you really never know what the school is looking for, so we were very happy that he was accepted into all of those schools,” she said.
In the end, Adjei narrowed it down to the Ivy League.
“I applied to Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Duke, Harvard and [the Massachusetts Institute of Technology], and I decided to attend Harvard in the fall,” he said, adding that he plans to study biomedical engineering.
In high school, Adjei was recognized as the Region 8 STAR student after earning the highest SAT score in a region made of 12 counties, including Chatham.
The track and field, cross country and basketball player was also inducted into the Summa Cum Laude Society during his junior year for being in the top 10 percent of his class.
Apart from excelling in his academics, Adjei also plays the violin, piano and guitar — and has even started an organization that provides reading material for children that need them.
“Books2Ghana collects books from local families, and we ship them to schools in Ghana that don’t have enough books,” Adjei said, adding that in the two years since the program started, they’ve shipped over 2,500 books abroad.
All three of the hardworking young men have earned academic scholarships to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I universities, and Hunter says he couldn’t be more proud.
“It’s been very rewarding to get three guys in a gym and start training them in basketball and see their success in the classroom,” the coach said.
“I’m a big fan of academics because a lot of our athletes play sports, but then they have to go to a school that they may not necessarily want to go to but have to go to because they didn’t qualify,” he said, adding, “I’m very elated, very happy for all three of them.”