Talented trio

Three from HPCA make mark in college
Feb. 03, 2014 @ 09:36 PM

Over the last few years, Diante Baldwin, Mike Kobani and Michael Obacha were key pieces in helping High Point Christian be one of the top basketball programs in the state.

Now, they’re making an impact on their college teams, with Kobani and Obacha both at Appalachian State and Baldwin at UNC Greensboro. On Thursday, the former teammates and now Southern Conference rivals met on the court of the Greensboro Coliseum.

“We compete hard against each other,” said Obacha, who has also organized The Michael Obacha Shoe Drive for children in Nigeria, following the game. “But outside of basketball we’re still friends.”

All three are seeing pretty good playing time, with Obacha, as a sophomore, making 19 starts and Kobani and Baldwin, both freshmen, averaging double-figure minutes off the bench. All three average less than six points per game, but their roles right now aren’t as scorers.

Baldwin, as a 6-foot guard, is primarily used as a defensive stopper against opponents’ best players, scoring when he needs – as in he did making a key transition lay-in during the final minutes of Thursday’s 66-61 comeback win – and distributing the ball to the Spartans’ scorers.

“Things are coming along OK,” said Baldwin, who’s had nine-point games against Chowan and Samford this season. “I’m playing pretty well, learning different ways to play in college.”

Meanwhile, Obacha, a 6-foot-8 forward, is far and away the Mountaineers’ top rebounder with 9.1 boards per game. He’s also had five games in double-figure scoring and  double-doubles this season against North Greenville and Bluefield.

Kobani, a 6-8 forward, has also had his moments of very strong play, scoring in double-figures in three games – including an 18-point performance on Jan. 23 against The Citadel – and pulling down eight rebounds against Charlotte and Milligan.

“It’s still a learning process this first year,” Kobani said. “I’m still learning the system, but the coaches have been supportive. I just have to keep working hard every day to keep getting better. The college players are stronger, bigger and faster. So, I have to work hard to get to their level.”

Although they didn’t play together at HPCA, Kobani, who transferred  from Caldwell prior to last season, and Obacha have gotten along well as Appalachian teammates, both having originally come from Nigeria and having similar basketball backgrounds.

“It’s pretty cool,” Obacha said. “He’s my roommate now, and we’ve been practicing every day. So, it’s been really good. We just hope to continue to work hard and continue to get better every day.”

Not long ago the three former Cougars had aspirations of playing Division I college basketball. And during several stretches during Thursday’s game, all three were on the court at the same time, although in different jerseys.

“It’s fun. It’s different, but it’s fun,” Baldwin said of going up against his former teammates. “Playing at this level, it’s like a dream come true – like it’s not reality. It’s different because you know what the other guy can and can’t do. But it’s fun.”