Two former Austin College and Career Academy hoops standouts are planning to lead their alma mater into a golden age of academic and athletic prosperity.
Newly hired ACCA athletic director and boys varsity head coach Troy McGee did not expect to return to his old stomping grounds much less in a capacity to help change the culture of his school and community. In a conversation with the Defender, McGee, who was varsity girls head coach at Christ The King School for four years and has coached girls’ basketball for 10 years total, and new junior varsity head coach Michael Miller discussed their plans for the future. The conversation was held in McGee’s office on the third floor of a four-story colossal of a school located at 231 N Pine Ave.
“I never thought I would be back in my former high school,” laughed McGee, a graduate of the Class of 1991. “It’s actually a joy to come back and give back because this is something [Miller] and I talked about in the past.”
McGee recalled speaking to Miller prior to being offered a job at ACCA. He said Miller inquired if he had already taken the position of head coach, one he had not been offered yet, and through sheer serendipity, a week later he was offered the position along with athletic director. He said Miller was among the first people he reached out to to help him transform ACCA not only into a basketball powerhouse but into an academic one as well. Miller, a graduate of the Class of 1995, remembered he was one of many who looked up to McGee from the community.
Miller recalled discussing with McGee the importance of leading with education so the next generation of Austin residents may be in position to change the community.
“When Troy and I had the initial conversation about what he planned to do, I bought into it immediately because it made sense,” said Miller. “I probably wouldn’t have believed him if he told me, ‘Mike, we are about to win a bunch of championships so come here with me’. With the lack of financial stability in this community if we can send three or four young men or ladies to college on athletic scholarships, that’s a victory for us. If we continue to send every year two or three guys and ladies to college, I figure that’s better than any state or city championship that we could ever win.”
Giving students a realistic view of success coming out of ACCA was of high importance to Miller and McGee. Post high school graduation Miller played basketball at Triton Junior College and McGee received a full basketball scholarship to play at Tuskegee University.
“[The student athletes] feel like they can win games, but are they looking at a championship this year? No. But are they looking at when they leave here they could earn a college degree? Absolutely,” said Miller. “Why? Because [McGee] did it from here, I did it from here, it’s not just talk.”
Miller said providing children especially those in single parent households with viable activities after school will make a world of difference.
“What we noticed is the ones that bought into what we told them student first, athlete second, they’re flourishing right now,” said Miller. “We don’t have a team of the most heralded kids in the neighborhood; we have a team of kids who needed a second chance, kids who needed a bit of special attention, and we feel that that’s what we need around here.”
Listed among McGee and Miller’s goals for ACCA are: increase student enrollment, produce “entire teams” on the honor roll, and send student-athletes to college. McGee estimated “75 percent” of their players are already honor roll students.
Increasing enrollment is of special importance to McGee because he said during his tenure roughly 4,000 students were enrolled. Today, only 227 are officially enrolled at ACCA, according to ACCA’s profile on Chicago Public Schools’ website. He said so far this year they’ve received 240 student applications to attend ACCA compared to last year’s estimated mark of 47 applications. He attributes the increased number of enrollment applications to the “new excitement” surrounding the school along with the work done by ACCA principal Patricia Reynolds.
“I think it’s our job to educate our kids about things outside of basketball, life outside of basketball; being a productive citizen– that’s our goal,” said McGee.
For more information about Austin College and Career Academy, visit http://accachicago.cps.edu/