Far from the bright lights of NBA arenas or March Madness Bracketology, former NBA point guard Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues has spent the past five months pacing the sidelines at a private high school gym in Charlotte, North Carolina. Although, the diminutive ex-NBA point guard has the stature of the average high school freshman, this isn’t a 21 Jump Street-inspired attempt at rekindling his high school hoops greatness as an undercover transfer student. He’s the head coach.

As the NBA has globalized the game of basketball in the past two decades, an emerging prep basketball powerhouse at United Faith Christian Academy’s unique situation is also proving that basketball’s multinational reach has trickled down to the high school level as well.

Although, Bogues may not duplicate his own fabled high school success as a head coach, he could come mighty close at UFCA, which has appeared in three out of the last four state championship games. Bogues has a little experience with high school hoops dynasties.

It’s hard to believe that 30 years have passed since Bogues manned the point guard position for one of the most dominant prep hoop teams of all-time at Baltimore’s Dunbar High School. Alongside three other future NBA players, including David Wingate, Reggie Lewis and Reggie Williams Dunbar finished 60-0 over Bogues’ final two seasons. As a high school basketball head coach, Bogue’s now shares much more in common with his role model and Dunbar head coach Bob Wade who played professionally as a former NFL cornerback.

After a four-year career at Wake Forest packed with numerous accolades, Bogues was drafted in the first round of the 1987 NBA Draft and carved out an unlikely 14-year NBA career as the shortest player in league history. The majority of his NBA seasons were spent as a lightning quick, fan favorite for the expansion Charlotte Hornets franchise.

Despite ending his career with another expansion franchise in Toronto, Bogues returned to Charlotte as head coach of the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting. In 2009 the former WNBA head coach joined UFCA’s staff as an assistant to head coach Shaun Wiseman. According to Bogues, he accepted the position because of his relationship with a talented point guard he mentored named Ian Miller.

Miller, who is now a sophomore point guard at Florida State, knocked down a controversial game-winning shot to lift UFCA over John Wall’s Word of God Academy for the 2009 state title.

While, on UFCA’s staff Bogues began mentoring another uniquely talented UFCA player who shared Sudanese origins as Bogues’ Bullets teammate Manute Bol. At UFCA, Bogues bonded with a seven-foot big man, with a 7-6 wingspan, from the Sudan named Peter Jurkin.

After his brother Marvin, migrated stateside courtesy of the African Hoop Opportunities Providing an Education Foundation (A-HOPE), Peter was offered the same opportunity to attend school in the United States in 2006. Despite initially rejecting the idea he decided to take the plunge and came to the States after the death of his mother later that year.

“I met Peter back in ’09 when I first went there working with Ian, Peter just happened to be there. Big tall kid from Sudan couldn’t chew bubble gum and walk at the same time,” Bogues quipped. “I saw a kid that had height and a hunger for the game and just was hungry for the information. I just kind of took him under my wing and polished him up.”

However, after the season, Bogues departed over a disagreement with Wiseman.

“I wanted to leave and let the coach do his thing and not let my boys be bigger than his boys,” said Bogues.

During his absence, Bogues nearly returned to the NBA as an assistant coach but kept in touch with Jurkin.

“I had an opportunity to join (the Bobcats) staff when they got rid of Larry Brown. Coach (Paul) Silas called me and offered me a position but certain things didn’t work out and he couldn’t bring me on at that time,” said Bogues.

Instead, Bogues served as an NBA ambassador for the Bobcats abroad in hosting basketball clinics in places such as New, Delhi, India. After Wiseman resigned from UFCA in November, the school contacted Bogues and he immediately accepted.

“When the previous coach stepped down they reached out to me and asked me would I take over the position because one of the kids that was there was considering transferring and they didn’t want the program to go down the tubes.” said Bogues.

“The reason I did this mainly was because of Peter’s situation,” Bogues said. “When I got a phone call from the school, I was kind of shocked. High school coaching wasn’t something I was looking for and I thought Shaun was doing a really good job. The time I spent with him, he had the program going in the right direction.“

Bogues’ experience as an NBA ambassador was the perfect preparation for coaching UFCA. Although schools aren’t allowed to recruit, UFCA’s partnership with the A-HOPE has given UFCA a reputation for reeling in student-athletes from abroad. According to Bogues many of them arrive as extremely raw athletes.

UFCA’s basketball program has sent a number of its international student-athletes to elite Division I college basketball schools. They included Serbian Nemenja Mikic (George Washington), Canadian Kadeem Green (Missouri), as well as transfers Henry Uwadiae of Nigeria, (Wichita State next fall) who played his senior season at Charlotte’s Evelyn Mac Academy and Columbian Hanner Mosquera-Perea (Indiana next fall), who transferred after Bogues left in 2010.

This season, Bogues began mentoring another heralded point guard bound for the Sunshine State. In 2010, 6-foot point guard Braxton Ogbueze transferred to UFCA for his junior year. Don’t be fooled by Ogbueze’s last name amongst a team of international transplants. Although, Ogbueze is the son of Nigerian immigrants, he is a Charlotte native. Ogbueze was also one of the reasons UFCA was ranked among the top 30 prep teams in the nation. Ogbueze immediately made his mark by leading UFCA to a win over No. 1 ranked Oak Hill and eventually a runner-up finish in the state championship. 

According to Bogues, Ogbueze’s scoring mentality and slick crossover draws comparisons to Tim Hardaway and Derrick Rose. The 6-foot point guard was also considered the fifth best point guard recruit by Scouts.com and justified his ranking by averaging 22.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and three assists this season.

“We have a special relationship. It was a blessing working with Braxton,“ said Bogues. “Braxton had all the ingredients in terms of a point guard in terms of just how to play and score but he was missing just how to run a team, how to get his teammates involved.”

Bogues is just one of many who are in awe of Ogbueze’s unusual maturity and tireless work ethic.

“I challenged him on both ends of the floor to make sure he keeps everybody afloat. I mean he met all challenges. The kid has just a great work ethic on and off the court,“ gushed Bogues about Ogbueze. “He’s a great student. Gets up 5:30, six in the morning and wants to workout. He just has that drive, that passion. You dream about a kid like him.”

Ogbueze and Jurkin weren’t the lone contributing seniors last season. Senior shooting guard Zach Davis recently committed to the University of North Carolina at Asheville, which recently pushed Syracuse to the brink of elimination in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Unfortunately, despite their lofty rankings and the plethora of D-1 talent, the Falcons were unable to compete for its fourth straight North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCSISAA) 1A State Championship Game appearance after receiving a two-year postseason ban in November.

The ban stemmed from an email sent out in September by the school headmaster, a NCISAA Board of Directors member, to guardians of the basketball program’s international basketball players. The email’s intent was to inform its recipients that UFCA would continue competing at the national level after the hiring of Bogues in the off-season. However, it also constituted a recruiting violation.

“It was hard because we worked so hard. Because I got hurt last summer and I worked hard to get back,” said Jurkin. “In the end to find out we’re not playing state, it was just really hard for us because we were coming back to win this thing.”

Despite ending his high school basketball career without an opportunity to avenge last seasons state championship loss, Ogbueze had a positive outlook on the year.

“My senior season, I wanted to win a state title but I still enjoyed my season, enjoyed my teammates,” said Ogbueze.

“It still was a blessing for me to play this season especially with Coach Bogues coming in. So I don’t see this season as a disappointment, I see it as a success.”

Jurkin, who plays AAU hoops for the Indiana Elite has committed to the Indiana Hoosiers. He also cites Indiana’s dramatic improvements under Tom Crean and the lack of incoming big men under as a factor in his decision to play for the Hoosiers.

While Bogues will remain the head coach at UFCA after Jurkin and Ogbueze have begun their collegiate hoops careers, he has acknowledged his very specific ambitions of returning to college or the pros.

“My goal is to be on the Bobcats bench. I’m not moving or leaving Charlotte. Only three places I’d go; Toronto, Charlotte or I’d go up to Wake Forest.”

Until one of those opportunities presents itself to Bogues, he is already focused on his second season with UFCA.

“I got another point guard that I’m priming and grooming, Little Alec Wintering,” said Bogues. “That’s one of the reasons I’m going back. Because of a kid like him and Nehemiah Mabson.”

Wintering has garnered interest from mid-majors such as Valparaiso and the College of Charleston but Bogue’s goal for next season is to increase the profile of Mabson and Wintering.  Next season, UFCA will attempt to bounce back from a disappointing 18-10 campaign without rising 6’5 ninth grader V.J. King, who has played varsity basketball for UFCA since the seventh grade but will be moving to Ohio with his father.

However, the next product in the global pipeline at UFCA is Bradley Fisher, a rising seven-foot junior from England whose potential has Bogues excited.

Meanwhile, UFCA’s international connections remain active and potentially assures that once the NCISSA’s sanctions run their course, Bogues and United Faith Christian Academy’s basketball program will have the opportunity to resume their championship routine.