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VJ Edgecombe using NIL money to fund scholarships for Bahamas school

On a thin strip of land surrounded by deep blue water on North Bimini Island sits Bailey Town. This Bahamian town, on an island about 95 miles from the country’s largest, Andros Island, and 55 miles from Miami, is home to Gateway Christian Academy, a middle and high school for students in the area.

This small academy was the school of five-star high school basketball prospect V.J. Edgecombe, who immigrated to the United States in ninth grade and is now completing his senior year at Long Island Lutheran (Brookville, N.Y.).

Though Edgecombe has moved away, the school and community remain part of him. When he began making NIL money, Edgecombe wanted to help the academy in which he started his journey, Long Island Lutheran assistant coach Jay David said in an interview with USA TODAY High School Sports.

“The thought process was, ‘I want to try to give back to the school that helped me become the person that I am,’” David said.

Edgecombe and David worked with partners to develop a scholarship model and host a dinner when Long Island Lutheran played in the Bahamas this season. During the dinner, with the Gateway Christian Academy president and founder in the room, Edgecombe announced plans for a fund that would help cover tuition, books, and other academic necessities for students at the institute.

“Kids aren’t funded properly, (don’t) have a strong base, a strong foundation financially,” Edgecombe said during an interview ahead of the McDonald’s All-American game. “I just want to be able to help them, allow them to be happy, and give them the opportunity to get a free education at one of probably the best schools in the Bahamas.”

David said the group is still finalizing logistics, but the fund will cover at least three students this year.

“As it grows, they’ll start putting in some more specifications,” David said. “As of right now, it’s to help underprivileged kids who can’t afford school, and/or books, and different things like that.”

Edgecombe attended the academy for two years before moving to the U.S. Over the last four years, he has proven his legit potential to thrive at the collegiate level and reach the NBA. The dynamic shooting guard, listed at 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds, was named the Gatorade Boy’s Basketball Player of the Year in New York as both a junior and senior, posting averages of 17.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.1 blocks this year to clinch the back-to-back recognition.

In 22 minutes of play during the 2024 McDonald’s All-American game, Edgecombe had nine points, five rebounds, and two blocks. In the Chipotle Nationals opening round, he recorded 13 points, six assists, five rebounds, and two steals.

While some prestigious NCAA coaches have criticized NIL money as the dismantlement of amateurism in high school and college, Edgecombe is showing the merits of how this money can be used for community-building means.

As his focus shifts to Baylor University, where he committed in January, he’s keeping his beginnings in mind and helping Bimini students get an education.

USA TODAY High School Sports’ Kristian Dyer contributed to the reporting.

Story originally appeared on High School Sports