Ajax’s Charles overcomes injury to play U.S. college basketball

Kordell Charles in the locker room at East State Tennessee University. Photo credit: Courtesy of Kordell Charles

Kordell Charles didn’t let a broken ankle stop him from achieving his goal of playing U.S. college basketball.

The 19-year-old Ajax native has overcome a bumpy road to play for East Tennessee State University (ETSU).

The 6-foot-8 forward broke his ankle at the worst time – in 2019 as he was considering offers from several schools including Illinois, Southern California and Tulsa. Following the injury those offers were rescinded, said Charles.

“When COVID hit that’s when I was rehabbing my ankle and I couldn’t get any treatment, so it took me a long time to be get ready to play, and a lot of schools stopped recruiting me,” said Charles.

ETSU has played five games thus far and Charles has seen limited action averaging 7.3 minutes of playing time and 2.7 points per game.

Charles started playing basketball in Grade 7 at Eagle Ridge Public School in Ajax, which is when he discovered his love for the game. Originally, he played soccer but his father, who also played basketball, encouraged him to get into the sport as well.

“At first I actually didn’t like basketball, I was a soccer player and I guess cause my dad used to play he kind of convinced me to play basketball and I’ve been playing ever since,” said Charles.

He then went on to play for other teams in Durham including Durham City Bulldogs, Uplay Canada and Canada Elite before moving to Ohio in Grade 11. He moved to the U.S. to play for International Sports Academy at Andrews Osborne Academy. His coach at Uplay heard about the school and sent over a group of players.

“He sent us down there just to get more exposure,” he said. “My goal was to play Division 1 basketball so that was my first option to play in the States.”

Kirk Miller, Charles’ first rep basketball coach, said “a month-and-a-half in is when I realized that, OK, he has a lot of potential.” Miller also went to school with Charles’ father.

Miller said Charles was eager to learn and had height to his advantage. Although Charles was new to the game, his drive always set him apart, said Miller.

After Charles rehabbed his injury, ETSU approached him in May and gave him an offer to play this season.

“I enjoy the coaching staff, they’re good people, they’re good coaches, I have good friends on the team,” said Charles.

“There’s not much opportunity staying in Canada the real good players all go down to the States, even if they go to high school in Canada they’ll go to college in the States.”

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