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The Passing of a Basketball Mentor

This past Tuesday Apache Paschall, founder and director of the Exodus AAU Program, passed away of a severe heart attack after four months of battling with skin cancer. He was only 37. Being the coach of one of the highest ranked girls basketball programs in the nation, I assume he was very close to the girls. Darius Falk, one of his players confirms this. “I've been with him since I was in seventh grade. He helped me get where I'm at right now.” He was seen not as a coach, but as a mentor and friend.

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When Paschall founded Exodus in 1997, it was at a boys program. In 2002, he decided to transform it into an all-girl program. From that time, he completely devoted himself to the nourishment of his players. “He dedicated everything to us,” said Nazareth senior guard Darius Faulk, who has a scholarship to West Virginia. Even in the midst of learning his diagnosis of skin cancer in October, the first thing he asked was “What about the girls?” Many of his previous players have gone on to play for UConn, Rutgers, Stanford, Syracuse, and Tennessee. Almost every major player from New York City played for Paschall or Exodus at some point in their high school careers.

Paschall guided Nazareth to last year’s CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division and CHSAA State AA titles. Anton Marchand, a boss of a Rose Classic girl’s basketball contest and one of Paschall’s best friends, states “He was really underappreciated for what he did for his girls. I wish people give him his only due for what he’s finished for these kids.”

The question I endlessly ponder on is this: What was the key to his success? This one man comes into these girls’ lives and turns them into basketball machines. I believe his faithfulness to the players and simply doing everything he could to cultivate their talents was the formula. Lisa Blair, Ohio State-bound center said, “Apache was always the father figure that I needed in my life and he always stood as motivation to me and everyone else. Through the arguments, he still showed us how much he loved us and wanted us to succeed. If it wasn’t for him, only God knows where we all would be.”

As of Tuesday night there were differing feelings as to whether the Lady Kingsmen's game against Brooklyn/Queens league rivals Bishop Ford on Thursday would be played as scheduled. Initially, the first-place game was postponed, but Nazareth assistants Lauren Best and Ron Kelley said the players wanted to play. “They all came to the hospital (on Tuesday) and we asked them what they wanted to do, and they came up with it on their own: they wanted to play,” said Best. “That’s what (Paschall) would have wanted.” Even Paschall’s teenage daughter, who attends Nazareth, was all for playing the game as scheduled.

One thing was for sure: Paschall touched the lives of every girl he recruited. “He meant the world to me,” Nazareth star sophomore Bianca Cuevas said. “I would do anything to get him back. He was like my father and always there for me no matter what.”