MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When you think of home school, basketball may not be first to come to mind.
But Memphis Home Education Association boys' basketball is showing there is no place like home.
"If you're talking about a home school team you're thinking, we're just going to play them on our senior night and kill them. Destroy them on the court," MHEA senior Justin Morgan said. "But now they know when we're in their gym, it's going to be a good game."
For years, the Eagles struggled to be a .500 team; then coach Preston Butts came on board in 2020.
"When I first got here, people were scheduling us for their homecoming or as a schedule filler," he said. "Now that has drastically changed."
The hiring of Butts coincided with a merger with another home school team, The Memphis Nighthawks. While the infusion of talent was welcome, the first-year head coach was unexpectedly tasked with making a seamless transition between two teams.
"They knew what they wanted and they were willing to do whatever it took to get there," Butts said. "And we tried to influence them as a coaching staff to get them there. It was awesome to see."
MHEA went on to win the 2020-21 homeschool national championship. After graduating eight seniors, the Eagles have not skipped a beat. They are 22-4 and ranked among the Top 15 teams in all of Tennessee.
They are now beating some of the same teams that used to schedule them expecting an easy win.
"We are starting to hopefully build that respect. I know teams are starting to circle us on their schedule a little more than they used to rather than 'Oh we're playing the home school team today.'"
Colleges are taking notice too. Morgan is signed to play at Murray State, Ja Morant's old stomping grounds.
Now he's hoping his longtime Nighthawks teammates and fellow seniors in Shoemaker and Drew Kyzar are next to have coaches coming their way.
"They're very talented," Morgan said. "I think that any school they go to, it's going to be a steal."
"You look at some of these guys in Memphis that are signing Div. I scholarships, they compete and beat them," Butts said of Shoemaker and Kyzar. "Their game may not be sexy, they may not be touching the top of the backboard, but these guys are competitors and winners."