UNCP's Elijah Cobb emerges as a star after overcoming adversity

Elijah Cobb brings the crowd to their feet with a dunk against Young Harris
Elijah Cobb rocks the rim in a contest against Young Harris

Elijah Cobb burst into tears as he hugged his coach midcourt moments after carrying his UNC Pembroke basketball team to an 82-81 overtime win in the Conference Carolinas Tournament championship.


In that moment, Cobb’s mind flashed back two years ago, when he was regarded among the nation’s top junior college players. Heavily recruited by several Division I programs, Cobb was on top of the world. The offers dwindled after a major knee injury following a breakout year at Roane State Community College. Cobb was forced to sit out that season as he recovered from surgery. He was devasted. 


“Tearing my ACL and having to sit at home that whole year was one of the low points in my life,” he said.


While many coaches stopped showing interest, Head Coach Drew Richards saw a star. 


“He kind of went off everyone’s radar, but after watching his clips, I said, ‘this guy is incredibly talented,’” Richards said.  


The 6-foot-8 forward transferred to UNCP in 2022 and made an immediate impact. An explosive scorer and defensive machine, Cobb has emerged as one of the top players in the conference.


A native of Murfreesboro, Tenn., Cobb earned Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 10.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He was in the top five in Conference Carolinas in blocks and rebounding. He was among the top 30 in the conference in steals with 25 and had 35 blocks on the season.


He was named tournament MVP in the championship game, finishing with 22 points against Emmanuel and K.J. Jones, one of the greatest DII men’s basketball scorers. Cobb, an interdisciplinary studies major, also scores high marks in the classroom, maintaining a 3.0 grade point average. After graduation, he hopes to play professionally or follow in Richards’ footsteps on the sidelines.


Richards said he’s proud to see how much his star forward has grown since donning the black and gold.


“Coming back from an ACL injury and watching him push through and work hard to continue to improve over the past two years and get stronger––all that work has paid off,” Richards said. “So, seeing him grow from that kid who was kind of defeated and struggling to find a meaning for academics and athletics to cutting down the nets––it’s pretty remarkable.”


As Cobb and the Braves prepare for a first-round matchup against Catawba in the NCAA Division II tournament on Saturday, Cobb reflected on his journey from Murfreesboro and the impact Richards––whom he considers a father figure––has had on his life. 


“It’s been a dream come true,” he said. “Our team has battled a lot of adversity this season, so I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished. I chose UNCP because it has a great history and a winning program. (Drew) is an amazing coach. He’s someone you can go to any time you need any type of advice. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve had, and I’ve had a lot of great coaches. He’s an exceptional coach.”


However, perhaps Cobb’s greatest inspiration and biggest supporter since he first picked up a basketball at age six is his mother, Sikitia Allen. Allen, who lives in Tennessee, comes to most of his games and will be cheering from the stands when the Braves travel to Dahlonega, Ga., this weekend. 


“My mom has been there for me since I first started playing, through travel league and AAU,” he said. “She has made so many sacrifices for me––she’s the reason why I play as hard as I do.”