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Carolina Basketball Academy enters second year in Elizabeth City

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Carolina Basketball Academy's Omar Gardner goes up for the layup, at practice Thursday.

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By David Gough
Sports Writer

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Yuri Solca has a pretty accomplished basketball career at the age of 19.

The 6-foot-2 guard from Switzerland played for the under-18 Swiss national team and made it onto this year’s senior national team roster that stars the Houston Rockets’ Clint Capela.

Solca was even offered to play for a professional team in Switzerland, but he turned that down.

Instead, he opted to move to Elizabeth City where he joined the Carolina Basketball Academy.

“It’s a dream come true to come to the U.S.,” Solca said Thursday, not even 24 hours after having moved into North Carolina from Europe.

While Solca’s move may be more of a culture shock than others, he came to play with Carolina Basketball Academy for the same reason just about everyone else has: Get the exposure to potentially play at the college level.

According to CBA coach Greg Primus, high school players have come from Alaska, California, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Minnesota, Canada, New York, Maryland and more to join the organization.

CBA is in its second season in Elizabeth City. Originally under the name Charlotte Basketball Academy, Primus started the academy in the western North Carolina city in 2014.

But with many other schools in Charlotte aiming to do a similar thing, Primus moved it to Greensboro before taking CBA to Elizabeth City where he moved to with his wife.

“We’re excited about being here and feel like we can make an impact on the city,” Primus said. “Feel like we can do something really great here for the community, for the young men and young girls growing up that want to pursue the next level.”

CBA doesn’t have a girls program yet, but it’s something Primus is looking into starting. He also noted the amount of talent this region has, but it’s overlooked “because nobody wants to come here.”

Players take classes via Ogburn School, an online program, while they’ll be set up in Elizabeth City State dorm rooms.

After being involved with Mid-Atlantic Christian last year, this year CBA will be playing their home games at ECSU against teams like Oak Hill Academy, which has helped send players like Carmelo Anthony and Jerry Stackhouse to the NBA.

CBA’s second season in Elizabeth City begins in October. Primus noted they’ll play 40 games involving more than a dozen states and will face 15 of the top 20 teams in the country.

That challenge will present an opportunity for players like Malik Lamin to showcase themselves in front of big-time college scouts.

Lamin, a 6-foot-11 Minnesota native, is no stranger to moving to play high-level high school basketball. Just last year, he played for Shadow Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona, under the coaching of former NBA star Mike Bibby.

Lamin reclassified to the class of 2020 to play another year at this level and found his way to northeast North Carolina.

“Just looking for more schools to look at me and just another year of high school,” Lamin said. “I think it’ll help me out a lot playing on a national schedule.”

He’s received a lot of attention as he said schools like Villanova, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Minnesota, St. John’s and Vanderbilt are currently keeping an eye on him.

In fact, some of those schools have made their way to the small basketball gym in Elizabeth City’s Holy Family Catholic Church to look at him and inquire about others.

On Thursday, new Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young was looking on.

Schools that have shown up at practices in the past, as well as recently, include Florida State, Oregon, Iona, James Madison, Ole Miss and Rider.

“Every day is something different,” Primus said. “They’re getting the exposure, they’re getting the offers and they’re getting the opportunity.”

It doesn’t just end with Division I schools either. CBA is a feeder for junior colleges and Division II programs.

In the first five years, Primus says he’s had 57 kids reach at least one of those levels on full scholarship.

For Division I alone, 37 have received full scholarships to schools like UConn and Arizona State.

Lamin is likely to add to that statistic as well as others like Omar Gardner and Marshall Roberson.

Gardner, from Bronx, New York, is in his second year with the academy and is looking at offers from East Carolina and St. Bonaventure.

“(CBA’s) improved me a lot,” Gardner said. “Came down here with no offers, stuck with it, got a couple offers and interest and that’s about it.”

Roberson, who Primus said has a 4.1 GPA, is receiving interest from Harvard and Yale.

Right now, Primus noted, a total of 11 kids are looking at Division I offers.

“It’s exciting to have all this happening in Elizabeth City and people don’t know what kind of coaches are coming through,” he said.

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