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County Upper Basketball Academy's Emma Robbins looking forward to getting started in the USA with DMACC in Iowa



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Less than three years ago Emma Robbins had no history of playing basketball – but now she is celebrating gaining a spot on a prestigious scholarship scheme to take her talents Stateside.

Fresh from helping County Upper Basketball Academy to win an historic two national titles, the Kedington-based 18-year-old will be combining her studies with playing for Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) in central Iowa from September.

It will see her follow in the footsteps of her coach at her Bury St Edmunds sixth form, Darren Johnson, as well as former County Upper players and pupils – in Elliott Defreitas (2013-15) and National Championship winner Bradley Day (2019-21).

Emma Robbins only picked up a basketball when she joined West Suffolk Wolves two-and-a-half years ago Picture: Mark Westley
Emma Robbins only picked up a basketball when she joined West Suffolk Wolves two-and-a-half years ago Picture: Mark Westley

“There’s a part of me that still can’t believe it’s actually happening!” said the former Haverhill resident who previously went to Stoke College and Stour Valley Community School in Clare.

“When coach Johnson told me that receiving a scholarship was possible, I set it as a goal but never thought that this would be achievable, especially with starting a lot later than most.

“I honestly can’t express how excited and grateful I am to have been given the chance to continue with something I have grown so passionate about.”

Darren Johnson's County Upper School Girls Under-19s basketball team won two national title this season, which will be the last of the academy itself Picture: Mecha Morton
Darren Johnson's County Upper School Girls Under-19s basketball team won two national title this season, which will be the last of the academy itself Picture: Mecha Morton

Robbins had previously demonstrated her abilities on a court in netball, playing for Bury-based Jetts. She trialled for the England Netball Pathway and progressed up to playing for Suffolk.

She explained: “I then decided to join a second netball club (Norfolk United) so I could train more and at a higher level, but had to leave once I decided to start basketball as the training sessions were at the same time.

“I do still continue to play for Jetts and I have found that basketball training has significantly improved my play in netball.”

But after two successful years doing her post-16 studies alongside playing for County Upper and their linked non-student team, West Suffolk Wolves, it is basketball that she is now focusing on taking forward.

Emma Robbins (right of centre) was part of the County Upper School Girls Under-19s basketball team that won two national titles this season Picture: Mecha Morton
Emma Robbins (right of centre) was part of the County Upper School Girls Under-19s basketball team that won two national titles this season Picture: Mecha Morton

“My goal for the next few years is to really focus on improving my strength and fitness which will contribute to helping my overall gameplay,” she said.

“I’m hoping that my time at DMACC and the intensity of the workouts and level of play they provide can assist me in becoming a much better player, ideally leading on to a four year degree elsewhere so I can continue with basketball whilst furthering my education.”

Robbins, who plays centre, will be the first County Upper School student to sign with an NJCAA Division 2 programme and the 44th basketball player helped by coach Johnson to attain a roster spot on a US College team in 14 years.

Emma Robbins will be looking to make further progress in America. Picture: Mark Westley
Emma Robbins will be looking to make further progress in America. Picture: Mark Westley

“This is fantastic news for Emma, her family, County Upper Basketball Academy and the West Suffolk Wolves,” said coach Johnson, who is director of County Upper Basketball Academy, which is set to close at the end of the academic year due to a lack of students for 2022/23.

“Emma came to us two years ago at the age of 16, not knowing much about basketball but had a goal of playing college basketball in America.

“Since joining our basketball academy this young lady has dedicated herself 100 per cent to her academics and basketball and now it has finally paid off.

“I am so happy for Emma in that we have able to find her this opportunity. I feel she is in the best programme to help her basketball development moving forward.”

He also feels DMACC coach Jocelyn Kovarik can use her own experience to develop her in the same mould of player as herself.

He said: “With Coach Kovarik having played the same position as Emma to a very high level and being 6’3 herself Emma will be able to learn the game first hand from someone who has already lived where she would like to go.

"Not only this with coach Krafcisin standing at 6'10 with playing experience at North Carolina and in the Pro Game and staying around to help coach next year Emma will be around two great coaches with two great playing careers.

"However, as I say to all the athletes I have helped, the easiest part in this whole process is signing the national letter of intent, what they do next will determine how they get on".

* Anyone interested in following in the footsteps of Emma or Lizzy Sanders in gaining American scholarships after learning the game on the local scene in west Suffolk can get in touch with the West Suffolk Wolves who offer a National League club to U12, U14, U16 and Senior Men. Email any interest or questions to head coach Darren Johnson: wswolvesheadcoach@gmail.com