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Head coach Darren Johnson to take County Upper Basketball U19 team to face four USA Colleges, as youngsters chase basketball scholarships

County Upper Basketball Academy is going on tour to the USA, to give players a taste of life on a sports scholarship at a US College.

The U19 Boys will be facing four US Colleges in the space of just a week, as they travel to coach Darren Johnson’s heartland of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota to gain some invaluable experience of the American game.

He went to College himself in Iowa, on a basketball scholarship, and went on to coach in the state – the only Englishman, he believes, to do so.

Johnson still has some strong connections in the area, having gone to college in the region before going on to coach teams in Divisions One and Two of the NCAA and Division Two of the NJCAA.

BASKETBALL - County Upper U19s Boys' v Moulton College..Pictured: ....PICTURE: Mecha Morton... .. (5144914)
BASKETBALL - County Upper U19s Boys' v Moulton College..Pictured: ....PICTURE: Mecha Morton... .. (5144914)

He is using this network to give his U19 team, who all have high ambitions of reaching basketball’s top ranks including chasing sports scholarships in the US, experience of the standard, as well as experience of life in the US.

CU will face two teams who play in the NJCAA D2, one of the toughest junior leagues, in Iowa Central Community College and DMACC (Des Moines Area Community College) as part of the Baymont Inn and Suits Classic.

Over the past three seasons there have been two teams crowned National Champions from this division, as well as one team finishing third.

Both clubs know the Suffolk school academy well, having previously offered part or full scholarships to County Upper graduates.

Elliott DeFreitas, who plays professionally at NBL Division One team Thames Valley Cavaliers, first got his big break with a scholarship at DMACC, while current Iowa Central player Tomisin Olumoroti – part scholarship – is also a CU graduate. He is the 34th player from the academy to gain a place in America.

The team will also face Iowa Central’s second string and Quakerdale Prep School.

Johnson said: “I know what US College basketball is like, it’s tough and full-on and requires a lot of commitment.

“I think you have to really want it and telling these boys is completely different to them experiencing it first hand.

“The trip can make or break their ambitions and it’s really important in giving them a taste of the standard of play, but also what it takes to make it professionally.

“It’s a great teaching tool, but it’s also a chance for them to get spotted by colleges.

“Elliott and Tomisin are perfect examples of what can be achieved – both got spotted by colleges on their versions of this trip and got to take their basketball to the next level.”

Meanwhile, the team will leave on a high after thrashing Moulton College 158-42 at home in the ABL.

Bradley Day top-scored with 26 points, while Jonathan Bourne and Jordan Boyd scored 24 points each.

The U16 Girls made it five from five in the JNBL South East Division with a 105-59 victory over London Thunder.

Their next match away to Brentwood Fire has been postponed. The U16 Boys also won in the East Division, beating Thurrock Hornets 77-59 on the road.

They next take on the Cambridge Cats at County Upper on Saturday (2pm).

The U14 Boys, in the East Division, beat Braintree Blue Devils 81-54, while the U14 Girls lost to Ipswich 83-47 in the Midlands East.

Only the U16 Boys are in action this coming weekend.

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