In past years, one could find John Paul II basketball scattered throughout southern Beaufort County.
Boys practiced at the Bluffton Recreation Center near downtown. Girls were at the Buckwalter Rec Center. And on Wednesdays, USC Beaufort opened its gym to the boys’ varsity.
“So every Wednesday, we had teams in three different gyms,” athletics director Matt Dakolios said. “We made the best of it.”
No longer. The opening of the new John Paul II Athletic Center has alleviated that logistical tangle, and the Golden Warriors’ new home awaits its first big hoops night Tuesday with a four-game launch against Patrick Henry Academy. Junior varsity girls tip off at 4 p.m., followed by JV boys, varsity girls and finally varsity boys at 7:30.
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“It’s another chance to open another chapter of home games on our campus,” Dakolios said.
Technically, the JP2 volleyball team christened the $4 million building in August with a sweep of Veritas Academy. The center welcomed Bishop Robert Guglielmone to bless the center and perform Mass for the students on Sept. 1, though it was a bit muddled as Tropical Storm Hermine took aim at the area.
“We had to cancel all after-school activities that day,” Dakolios said, “but we still were able to have the bishop bless the athletic center.”
Varsity volleyball went 5-7 in its new home. Basketball, though, is where the athletic center will get its most use. With middle school, JV and varsity teams for both boys and girls, that’s a half-dozen squads that use the building virtually every day.
No wonder the building was No.2 on the fledgling school’s priority list, behind the main academic building.
“Beaufort County PALS was unbelievably accommodating to us,” Dakolios said of the prior arrangement. “You were asking a lot of parents to do a lot of carpooling, asking Beaufort parents to pick their kids up in downtown Bluffton. That’s an hour drive. Now they’re finally rewarded.”
The school had to raise $1.5 million to obtain a loan from the diocese for construction. Fundraising continues to pay off the remainder.
Some of that funding has come through naming rights — the Belfair and Spring Island communities have put their names on the locker rooms, for instance. And if anyone has an interest in primary naming rights, Dakolios will take your call.