Falcon Children’s Home Basketball Team Succeeds Despite Struggles
When William Agostini Jr. took the job of coaching boys’ basketball at Falcon Christian Academy, he felt good about it.
The school is located at Falcon Children’s Home in the small community of Falcon which straddles the line between Cumberland and Sampson counties. Residents are young people who are either orphaned or placed there by the justice system to escape abusive situations in their own homes.
“A lot of kids on my team have had very difficult lives,” Agostini said. “I thought I knew what I was going to come into, but I had no idea what it was going to be.”
Falcon Christian has just completed its first season of organized basketball with remarkable results, especially considering the players’ experience. The Warriors went 19-1 against other private schools (19-3 overall.)
“These kids have never really been on a team before,” Agostini said. “And being part of a winning team is just priceless. To see the look on their faces as they accomplish different things is amazing.
A different approach
Agostini shared his love of basketball and his religious beliefs with the denominational school players.
“You expect behavioral issues, but you have no idea until you get there,” he said. “I don’t speak badly of them, but you really have to focus on the ministry part. This won’t be your normal high school. Just a normal teenager growing up is going to have problems, but they’re all here because they have more than the typical teenager to deal with. It’s just a joy to share the scriptures with the guys and pray with them.
The Children’s Home gives youngsters a second chance at life and Agostini believes in giving his players a second chance. A great example is Chase Butler, the only senior on the team. His brother Tyler is a freshman on the team.
“Chase and Tyler had a hard time adjusting to a new coach,” Agostini said. “Chase had attitude issues with me and he ended up being kicked off the team.”
Chase always attended home games as he lives on campus.
“He was shooting at the goals after games,” Agostini said. “I could tell he wanted to come back. It was probably hard to sit and watch his brother play and do well on the team.
Falcon Christian sporting director Cameron Leggett advised Chase to apologize and ask Agostini if he could return.
The coach cleared him back into the team and Agostini said: “He stuck with it and never caused another problem. I believe in second chances.
“Chase had discipline issues when he first came to Falcon,” Leggett said. “But he’s getting clean A’s now and he’ll graduate with honours. This shows how basketball has marked a turning point in his life.
Undefeated run in Jacksonville
The highlight of the season was going undefeated in four games at a tournament in Jacksonville on February 12 to win the title. Falcon point guard Elijah Fisher was named the tournament’s MVP and was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammate Lucas West.
“Winning the tournament and seeing the culmination of everyone’s hard work was memorable,” Agostini said. “They bought into the system and I worked them hard in training. I am a hard and intransigent trainer, I do not hide it. But I believe in preparing children for life.
Agostini was unhappy with the small trophy the team received for winning the tournament and the players did not get individual trophies. So he spends the $750 he earned as a coach this season to buy a big team trophy with all the players’ names on it. He also bought individual trophies for each player.
“They come here with few possessions and they leave here with few possessions,” Agostini said. “Something as small as getting individual trophies is huge for them. I don’t just give it to them. They got those wins.
Agostini, 35, is a graduate of Seventy-First High School and Fayetteville Tech. He coached at Riverside Christian in Fayetteville before coming to Falcon Christian this season. His first team at Riverside went 5-16, which doesn’t sound impressive until you know the school has only had one win in the previous four years. His next team went 8-9.
Leggett knew Agostini because they attended the same church in Stedman and felt he would be a perfect fit for Falcon Christian.
“I knew what he brought to the table with his coaching experience,” Leggett said. “I knew he would be good with structure, discipline and just his knowledge of basketball, but I didn’t expect the record we have. He did a fantastic job.
“I am excited about the future”
Falcon Christian will join a regional private school conference next season and expects to have another strong squad, losing just one senior and adding players from an undefeated college team.
“I’m excited about the future,” Leggett said. “I think we can make a run at the conference championship next year. Attending a conference for the first time will be exciting.
Leggett said the basketball program is key for Falcon Christian.
“It’s an outlet for the kids because they relieve the stress of getting away from it all because they have a lot to do,” he said. “It also helps them with grades. They know they have to have certain grades to even make the team.
The other members of the team are Jordan McMillan, Robert West, Jordan Cochran, Ethan Owens, Qua Mckoy, Jalyn McMillan and Avery Moore.
“Being on a team, hanging out in the locker room with the guys and going on trips is important for these kids,” Agostini said. “Things that we probably take for granted, these children will walk away with a lifetime of memories that are simply irreplaceable.”
After the tournament win in Jacksonville, it was a happy homecoming.
“They all immediately said on the bus, ‘Are you coming back next year?’ ” Agostini said. “I told them all year that I would be here. I’m not going anywhere.”
That’s what the residents of Falcons Children’s Home really need – someone to be there.
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