Columbia makes waves at hoops tourney in Bahamas

The Columbia basketball team is ranked No. 12 in the POWERADE FAB 50 and claimed a tourney title playing in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving break. Columbia Athletics

Jarmal Reid has always cherished Thanksgiving dinner.

Just the thought of his aunt’s potato salad combined with large helpings of turkey, ham and cranberry sauce makes the Columbia senior forward’s mouth water. But this year, Reid had to pass up his favorite dinner offerings in favor of curry chicken and rice — a staple meal in the Bahamas.

“The meal was different this year,” laughed Reid.

Reid and his teammates and coaches traveled to Freeport, Bahamas, last week to participate in the Tabernacle Baptist Christian Academy Thanksgiving Basketball Classic.

The annual event pits several of the islands' top squads against a contingent of American high school teams. This year marked the second time Columbia, ranked No. 12 in the POWERADE FAB 50, competed in the six-day event. Head coach Phil McCrary, who uses the trips as an educational tool, has also entered the Eagles in tourneys in Alaska and Hawaii.

"The classroom is an extension of the basketball court," he said. "Education and basketball can go hand and hand. Whenever you can teach the game outside of the arena, it speaks volumes."

His son, Clint, an assistant coach with the team, believes the trip affords the staff a unique opportunity to foster team unity in addition to giving the kids a view of things outside the streets of Decatur.

“We try to build a trip like this every year,” said Clint. “It boils down to exposing them to something more than basketball. Many of these kids had never been on a plane or seen the beach before.”

On the hardwood, the Eagles encountered a more physical brand of basketball than what they’ve grown accustomed to back in the Peach State. Columbia went undefeated in three games, though, and topped Bahamas’ No. 1 team C.I. Gibson en route to capturing the title.

Reid averaged 16 points and 10 boards to cop MVP honors, while classmate Chris Horton tallied a pair of 20-rebound, 10-block efforts and junior Tahj Shamsid-Deen tossed in 12 points and nine dimes to garner All-Tourney honors.

“The level of competition wasn’t bad, but our guys played really well,” said Clint.

More important than the success the team had on the hardwood were the lessons the players learned interacting with the local teens. When not on the court, the players were hard at work in the classroom focusing on public speaking, social studies and psychology courses.

"They get an opportunity to see the value of education and what it's like in different places," said Phil. "The private schools down there don't have air conditioners and some still have outhouses. Our kids should value what they have (at home)."

The players also connected through music and dancing, and introduced the Bahamians to the popular Georgia dance Beefing it Up.

"They showed us some moves and they were kind of catchy,” said Reid. "Me and my team might slide to a party and show people around Georgia what we learned out there.”

David Auguste is an associate editor for ESPNHS and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @ESPNHSAuguste or email him at David.Auguste@espn.com.