It can’t be easy for Archbishop Carroll sophomore Ernest Aflakpui to be in this situation, but at the same time, he recognizes that he’s been blessed with a great opportunity. For any 16-year-old kid, though, being more than 5,000 miles away from his home, his family and everything he’s ever known can’t be easy.
Aflakpui arrived at Carroll Sept. 9, but he’s not like most transfers. Most transfers don’t come via Ghana and they don’t get noticed at NBA Youth and Basketball Without Borders camps. That’s where Aflakpui first caught the eye of a scout, who went through some channels to contact Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk. The result? A 6-10, 225-pound beast in the middle for Romanczuk to work with and the biggest player on what Romanczuk calls, “the biggest team I’ve ever had at Carroll.”
“I went for a scholarship. I had a camp in Burkina Faso, an NBA Youth camp. I performed tremendously and they got me a scholarship,” Aflakpui said. “Then they called me and told me that I had a scholarship to come study in the States to play basketball. Before I came here, we had a camp in South Africa, which was Basketball Without Borders, an NBA camp. Then I had to come here Sept. 9 to start studying and playing basketball here.”
The toughest part of being so far from home is pretty predictable. It’s been a struggle to get acclimated to an entirely different way of life, both on the court and off of it. The third of four boys, Aflakpui admitted that it’s been difficult to not be able to see his family the way he’s used to seeing them.
“From the beginning, it wasn’t easy. It’s a new environment, new people, new everything,” Aflakpui said. “Since I’ve been here, my teammates, coach Paul, and all of the other coaches have been really good to me, and my host family, they make me feel like I’m at home. So I don’t really feel like I’m away from my parents.”
But at the same time…
“It’s really tough. Since I have another family here, I’m OK. I do miss my family, but I get to talk to them during the week any time I feel like, so I talk to them,” Aflakpui added.
Aflakpui came in at the right time, though, because the Patriots will be a threat to win the Catholic League this year. Carroll made the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals last year before bowing out and it brings back senior All-Delco point guard Yosef Yacob as the headliner of an otherwise young team. The Patriots aren’t being talked about in the same breath by most prognosticators as defending AAA state champion Neumann-Goretti or St. Joseph’s Prep, but according to Yacob, that’s nothing new.
“I think we’re the best team in the Catholic League, easily,” said Yacob, a Chester resident and Binghamton commit. “That’s how it’s always been. Last year, they had us fourth or fifth. We came out second in our league. That’s how it’s always been with Carroll.”