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Stock rising for Canadian hoopster

By Doug Gorman

When Olu Ashaolu walks into a room, people can't help but notice.

Although only a freshman, at 6-7, Ashaolu is a towering figure.

By the time he graduates from high school, he might be regarded as one of the best basketball players in the country.

Ashaolu is a member of the Community Christian School Elite Knights, a premiere high school basketball team affiliated with the Community Christian Church in Stockbridge. Most members of the Elite Knights are considered Division I prospects.

The Elite Knights are just in their second year of operation, and like nationally known programs such as Oak Hill and Mt. Zion (North Carolina), the team often plays in national events.

Like most of his teammates, Ashaolu, who is from Canada, made his way to Georgia from another country.

"This is great opportunity for me," he said. "Coming to school here gives me a chance to get a good education and showcase my basketball skills."

So-called recruiting experts are already sitting up and taking notice, calling the Toronto native the best freshman basketball player in the country.

At a tournament earlier this year, Ashaolu scored 21 points against Mt. Zion despite his team's loss.

Ashaolu has also garnered several all-tournament and camp awards.

He's also a rising media star in his native country as several newspapers and television stations have come to Georgia to do stories on the teen-age basketball sensation.

Ashaolu was recently selected to participate in Canada's Junior Olympic development team, which means he will represent his country in several international events.

Until taking up organized basketball two years ago, Ashaolu could have been a home run hitting baseball player.

"I loved playing baseball," he said. "I had two older brothers who played basketball and when I started playing I fell in love with it and sort of gave up baseball."

The Toronto native is glad Community Christian has given him a chance to follow his dream.

"It's been exciting," he said. "We are building something here, and its good to be a part of that."

Despite his skill on the basketball court, Ashaolu is soft-spoken.

"I want to be known as a humble guy," he said. "I just want to be a regular guy."

Community Christian has come under fire by some skeptics who suggest the church and school are only trying to build a basketball farm system for foreign players.

However those involved with the Elite Knights truly believe its a much needed ministry, In addition to getting a Christian-based education, the Elite Knights open opportunities to also prepare for going to college.

"They would have a chance to play pro basketball (in their own country), but college would be out of the question. Once the ball stops bouncing, many would have to settle for jobs like washing dishes," said the Elite Knights head coach Linzy Davis, a businessman and USA Junior National Team coach.

According to Joe Sheffield, the director of development of Community Christian School, Ashaolu came to Georgia based on a straight referral.

"We didn't know a whole lot about him," Sheffield said. "It's worked out great.

Ashaolu and his teammates often go through a period of adjustment when they arrive in Stockbridge.

"It usually takes about three months before our foreign players get totally adjusted," Sheffield said. "They are in a new country, and there are some cultural adjustments that go with coming to school here."

Ashaolu will divided his time playing for Team Georgia and in basketball events in Canada.