By Ethan Diamandas
On the court, Louth Coulibaly is a force to be reckoned with. At 6’8” and 220 pounds, the 19-year-old power forward passes the eye test with flying colours.
“I was always taller than everyone,” said Coulibaly, who grew five inches over his high school years.
As Coulibaly grew in stature, his physicality in the paint quickly became the most dominant part of his game. With highlight-reel dunks and ferocious work on the glass, Coulibaly proved to be a budding superstar in Ottawa.
Hype grew around him in recruiting circles as he averaged 13.8 points and 11.4 rebounds during an outstanding 2019-2020 campaign with Ottawa’s Canada Topflight Academy (CTA).
As the season progressed, scouts from the United States began realizing Coulibaly had what it took to compete in the NCAA.
“When I started getting coaches to recruit me, I realized that I could really do something with basketball,” Coulibaly said – and sure enough, the recruitment letters came pouring in.
After mulling offers from about a dozen U.S. schools, Coulibaly decided on Holy Cross, a NCAA Division I college in Worcester, Massachusetts. His commitment became official in April and Coulibaly is set to receive a full scholarship.
“There’s a lot of freshmen coming in and I feel like I have all my chances there,” Coulibaly said. “It’s a big opportunity for me and I felt like I had to take it.”
As psyched as he is for basketball, Coulibaly said academics are still his top priority.
“I know I want to study business,” Coulibaly said. “Hopefully that will work out and I’ll graduate from a business school at Holy Cross.”
While Coulibaly has had a successful pre-collegiate career, his journey to the cusp of NCAA Division I ball has been quite unique.
Coulibaly was born in Ivory Coast and moved to France with his family when he was just three years old. It was there his father, Adama, introduced him to basketball at the age of five.
Coulibaly’s family eventually immigrated to Ottawa in 2014, settling in the Lees Avenue neighbourhood.
In Ottawa, Coulibaly trained on a regular basis with Carleton Ravens assistant coach Aaron Blakely. It was during this time Coulibaly discovered what the Ottawa basketball community truly had to offer.
“It’s not too big of a city, all the players, we all know each other,” Coulibaly said. “It’s really close, everybody supports each other… I really like that about Ottawa.”
While Toronto is often considered the basketball capital of Canada, Coulibaly said he thinks people forget about Ottawa’s basketball talent. He said this motivated him and his CTA teammates to play a little harder this past season.
“A lot of people don’t think that we’re really good when we come from Ottawa because it’s not necessarily a basketball city,” Coulibaly said. “But with Carleton, now CTA and Ottawa U, things are changing and people now know that we can hoop too.”
Personally, Coulibaly said he used the underdog status of his adopted hometown to fuel his determination both on and off the court, which has earned him praise from his coaches.
“Our coaching staff knew he was going to be special,” said Tony House, the founder of CTA and Coulibaly’s former coach. “He brought real good energy and leadership to the team.”
“[Coulibaly] deserves all the success he gets because of the time he put in,” House added.
Now, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Coulibaly has been doing everything he can to stay in shape. His new daily routine includes a four-kilometre run, bodyweight exercises like push-ups and sit-ups, as well as consistent work on the courts near the University of Ottawa’s Lees Campus.
Eventually Coulibaly hopes his game will take him pro – wherever that may be – but at the moment he says he’s focussed on achieving team success with Holy Cross, beginning in his freshman season.
“I’m thinking about that every day, I’m just excited about playing at that level,” Coulibaly said. “It’s the next step, I just can’t wait.”