TEENAGE prospect Luke Rankin is swapping Redditch for Atlanta to pursue his dream of becoming a professional basketball player.
The 19-year-old will jet off to the United States next month to start a six-month spell with an elite basketball academy, which he hopes will lead to a scholarship with a US college or a professional contract.
Rankin, from Enfield, only started playing basketball at middle school when a teacher suggested his height would give him an advantage.
However, after spells training with Birmingham Knights and British Basketball League side Plymouth Raiders and playing in the UK’s top under-19s league, he wants to enhance his career by experiencing life in the States.
“I can’t wait to go,” said Rankin. “I’m looking forward to the cultural experience of living in America, as much as the basketball. It’s going to be a very different way of life.
“This is a great opportunity for me. The aim is to go over and get a scholarship at a college in the States or play professionally.”
The 6ft 4in shooting guard earned his chance to go to the States thanks to videos of his performances on the internet as matches in the under-19s Elite Academy Basketball League are broadcast via YouTube.
Rankin added: “The league has its own channel on YouTube and the coach in America watched it, saw me play and got in touch.
“Growing up, I watched the National Basketball Association and my heroes were LeBron James and Kevin Durant. I can’t wait to experience playing in America.”
It will be a long way from St Bede’s Catholic Middle School where he first tried basketball at the age of 13.
“I’ve always been sporty, playing football and doing athletics, but when I was 13 the PE teacher asked me if I wanted to play basketball for the school team simply because I was tall,” said Rankin.
“I discovered I was good at it and fell in love with basketball.”
Rankin, a former pupil at Mount Carmel First School and St Augustine’s High School, then progressed through Redditch Basketball Club, won honours with the West Midlands county team and joined the Knights Academy before being scouted to join Plymouth at the age of 17.
Now he will be able to meet up again with former Knights and Raiders player Brent Benson, who is now coaching and playing in Atlanta.
“Brent has been really helped me, he made me realise that going to America was an option for me. He has been a real mentor,” added Rankin.