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Solon’s Mike Bekelja reuniting with Sincere Carry at Duquesne

Solon’s Mike Bekelja reuniting with Sincere Carry at Duquesne

SOLON, Ohio — When Keith Dambrot called Mike Bekelja on Monday to offer him a college basketball scholarship, Bekelja did not hesitate.

Bekelja graduated last year from Solon with the expectation of playing this season at Division II Fairmont State. Little did he know then a coaching change would bring him back to Northeast Ohio and eventually to a reunion with high school teammate Sincere Carry at Duquesne.

“Of course it’s great to be back with my brother, but Keith Dambrot is a winner,” Bekelja said Tuesday. “I’d love to play for him. The coaching staff and program is up and coming.”

A 6-foot-1 guard who helped Solon to the OHSAA Division I state championship game with Carry in 2018, Bekelja planned to attend Fairmont State, but that changed when coach Joe Mazzulla left to join the Boston Celtics as an assistant coach.

Mazzulla compiled a 43-17 in two years at Fairmont State, which has a history of attracting Northeast Ohio talent and still has Shaker Heights’ Dale Bonner on its roster.

“I looked at my other options and thought doing a year of prep school would be the best thing for me,” said Bekelja, who averaged 25.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists this season at ISA. “Coach Dambrot kept in touch with me and came and watched me.”

Bekelja averaged 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists last year as a senior at Solon, which finished 17-9 after that state-final run. His ISA post-grad team this season finished 17-17, and Bekelja scored a career-high 39 points in January. That eclipsed his high school career high of 35 points in a regional semifinal win two years ago.

Duquesne is coming off a 21-9 season with an 11-7 record in the Atlantic 10. Carry averaged 12.2 points, second on the Dukes, with 5.3 assists.

Bekelja said he never took an official visit to Duquesne, partly because of the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down most schools, but he had the advantage of already visiting the school repeatedly with Carry.

During the season, Bekelja said Dambrot visited him once and his assistants kept in communication. He also got to see Duquesne play in Cleveland last Dec. 29, during the Cleveland Classic doubleheader that included Ohio State’s 67-59 loss to West Virginia.

Bekelja’s parents, Kevin and Melissa, got to see more of Duquesne this season. Carry lived with them after the family moved 12 years ago from Pennsylvania.

Mike and Sincere were inseparable then, and that might not change now. Bekelja said he is just grateful for a season of post-graduate play.

“This year gave me motivation and fire to become the best I can be,” he said. “I wanted to prove to all of these teams with Division I commits that I was just as good as them. I think the whole season let me develop my game and body.”