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Elizabeth Balogun

Elizabeth Balogun is from Nigeria, but in basketball she's an All-American and now first-team All-USA.

"I tell everybody I'm a Chattanoogan," she said Wednesday at Hamilton Heights Christian Academy, the school on Hickory Valley Road she has attended since eighth grade.

Now wrapping up her senior year before continuing her basketball career as a business major at Georgia Tech, the 6-foot-1 perimeter player is catching up on schoolwork after a whirlwind three weeks that included playing in the McDonald's All-American Game in Atlanta against Lady Hawks teammate Jazmine Massingill and two trips to New York City for high-profile competition.

Hamilton Heights finished second for the second year in a row in the GEICO (formerly Dick's Sporting Goods) High School Nationals in Queens, and then Balogun was in Brooklyn last weekend for the Jordan Brand Classic.

She got to meet Michael Jordan himself.

"We all got to shake his hand and stand there and ask him questions," Balogun said, then laughed and added, "I was so excited I couldn't ask him anything."

This week she was named to the USA Today American Family Insurance All-USA first team.

"She's really done a good job representing the school and keeping her feet on the ground and doing everything she needed to do this year," said Duke Stone, Hamilton Heights' head of school. "She's in the top 10 percent of her class."

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Stone acknowledged that Balogun had an adjustment period when she arrived, keeping up the necessary work load in her studies and basketball, "but she has really become a very mature lady, and she's ready to move on."

Balogun came to the United States at age 13, a year after her mother died of cancer, and has not been back to Nigeria. She followed brother Ezekiel to Hamilton Heights, and their younger sister Ruth came later.

A Hamilton Heights contact in Atlanta, Linzy Davis, knows the Baloguns' father, Mark, who runs a basketball academy in Lagos. Ezekiel went to The Citadel from HHCA but then transferred to a Florida community college and is headed to the University of North Florida.

The Balogun sisters live with Lady Hawks coach Keisha Hunt, who also was Elizabeth's AAU coach with Atlanta-based FBC, which was ranked No. 1 last summer. Sophomore teammate Treasure Hunt is like another sister.

"I couldn't ask for anything better," Elizabeth said of her time at Hamilton Heights. "It's a small school where you know everybody, and we're all close and do everything together. It's a very good school — academically and for basketball."

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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