Summit basketball trio commits to play in college |

Summit basketball trio commits to play in college

Sylla, Poliuk off to Ottawa, Kansas; Diaz to Adams State

Summit High School senior Banta Sylla guards Jose Hernandez as the clock runs down during a game versus Battle Mountain on Feb. 25 at Summit High School in Breckenridge. Both Sylla and Nazarie Poliuk have committed to play at Ottawa University in Kansas.
Photo by Liz Copan / Studio Copan

Three Summit High School graduates have committed to play college basketball next season, including a pair of teammates who will attend the same university.

Tigers Banta Sylla and Nazarie Poliuk have committed to play at Ottawa University in Kansas while captain point guard Hector Diaz will join the program at Adams State University in Alamosa.

The accomplishment is a dream come true for all three sons of immigrant parents. The versatile guard-forward Sylla fell in love with basketball in the U.S. after his father, a soccer fan from Mali, grew a liking to the game while watching Michael Jordan in the 1990s. Sylla said he distinctly remembers watching the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics rivalry just over a decade ago, furthering his love for the sport, as did his first time attending a Denver Nuggets game at 10 years old.

As a kid, Sylla improved his skills at Silverthorne Elementary School, where he met the sharp-shooting Poliuk, who will join him at the school just 27 miles south of Lawrence, Kansas — one of the most basketball-obsessed places in the nation.

“I just want to be the best me I can be,” Sylla said. “I want to try to reach my potential and continue to get better every day and understand hard work pays off and to show off my talent a bit. It means a lot just to have the opportunity. It’s always been a dream to play basketball at the next level, and the fact that I get to — I’m really excited.”

The Ottawa University Braves compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which is a college athletics association comprising many small schools and separate from the NCAA.

For Summit head coach Jordan Buller’s state-tournament qualifying 9-6 team this winter, Sylla was a valuable, versatile defender and effort player on both ends of the floor. Buller said Sylla is still filling into what he’s going to be physically and said Sylla has a higher ceiling of potential thanks to his love for the game.

“He loves practice. He loves drills. He loves to try to get better and working on his mental aspect,” Buller said. “Banta is just a kid who needs to play a lot and play against older, tougher, bigger guys. He put in a lot of work the last two years to get to this point.”

In Sylla, the Braves will get a player who is a great teammate and will add team chemistry off the court while on the court finishing well at the rim with either hand, Buller said. The coach said he expects Sylla to develop his shooting to be more consistent in college.

Poliuk, who was born in Frisco after his parents emigrated from Ukraine, said it means the world to him to continue to play the sport he loves at a high level. He’s also excited to once again be a teammate of Sylla’s.

“It means a lot because we’ve been playing together for so long,” Poliuk said. “He makes me a better player all around and a better person as well. To be around him is a great opportunity and experience.”

Buller said Poliuk will bring a natural gift for shooting the ball to Ottawa. The long-range marksman averaged 10 points per game this season on a team-high 33 made 3-point shots on 89 attempts — a 37% average.

“I think he would benefit anybody with his intensity and ability to shoot the ball,” Buller said.

Summit senior captain Hector Diaz scores on his second free throw after a foul by Battle Mountain's Jose Hernandez in the fourth quarter of Summit's game against Battle Mountain on Feb. 25 at Summit High School in Breckenridge. The Tigers defeated the Huskies 65-59.
Photo by Liz Copan / Studio Copan

For Diaz, the coach said the athlete’s spot earned with the Adams State program is a reflection of a guy earning an opportunity after years of hard work.

“In the gym, he dedicated a lot of time to practice and getting better and working on his skills, and that’s being rewarded at this time,” Buller said. “Hector is a great ball handler and finishes well at the rim like Banta. And he’s a good shooter. He has the skills to move onto the next level. It’s a nice opportunity to do that and prove to some other guys that you can do it.”

Diaz, who was born in Summit after his family emigrated from Mexico, said being able to join an NCAA Division 2 program with the Grizzlies is his dream realized. Diaz said he hopes to work his way up to the Grizzlies varsity team in the next year or two. To do so, he said he needs to get bigger and stronger and improve his shooting.

“And it’s about improving my skills and knowledge of the game for the next level,” Diaz said.

Nazarie Poliuk, No. 30, huddles with the Summit High School varsity boys basketball team before the game against Battle Mountain on Feb. 25 at Summit High School in Breckenridge.
Photo by Liz Copan / Studio Copan

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