Vancouver actor gets ‘Swagger’ on with UBC men’s basketball team

Click to play video: 'Vancouver actor gets chance to play with UBC men’s basketball team'
Vancouver actor gets chance to play with UBC men’s basketball team
Vancouver actor Solomon Irama got to play with the UBC men's basketbal team Tuesday, living out his real-life basketball dreams after playing a teammate on the AppleTV show "Swagger." Catherine Urquhart reports – Feb 13, 2024

There was a little bit of star power sprinkled on the regular drills at the UBC Thunderbirds men’s basketball team practice Tuesday.

The playoff-bound squad was joined on the court by an up-and-coming local actor, who has netted himself a major role on Swagger, the AppleTV+ show inspired by the life of Phoenix Suns star forward Kevin Durant.

“The atmosphere just today, you could tell there was a different feel out there,” Thunderbirds captain Brian Wallack told Global News.

“Guys were a lot more energized, a lot more high fives going on.”

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Solomon Irama, 20, plays Phil Marksby, a tough centre with a heart of gold who plays alongside basketball prodigy Jace Carson, played by Isaiah Hill.

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A Vancouver native, Irama is no stranger to basketball — he started playing at age three and was a member of the Vancouver Point Grey basketball team in high school.

“It’s truly amazing, man, it means a lot to me,” he said, courtside, of the chance to play with the local university squad.

“It’s definitely next level. A lot more like what I was seeing when I went to the ‘States to film Swagger … Great competition, fun time.”

Irama has film credits dating back to when he was just one year old, but Swagger is his breakout role.

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“It’s really been a journey, man,” he said of landing the role.

“(The show) wants to tackle a lot of world problems … what it stands for, I am very proud to be a part of it.”

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Along the way, he’s had a chance to meet Durant, who executive produces the show.

“He’s a cool guy, a down-to-earth guy,” he said of the NBA legend.

UBC men’s basketball head coach Kevin Hanson said he’d started watching Swagger after Irama attended one of the team’s games earlier this season, and was pleased to get to see him on the court.

“One of the things we preach is trying to network with the community and to have someone of his status, being a television series celeb, it’s kind of fun, you can see the smiles on the guys’ faces and to have him interact and joking and have some fun is good,” he said.

“I was wondering about what his basketball skills were going to be like. He actually is looking to attend university someday.”

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Irama, for his part, seems intensely focused on where he is right now.

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And with season two of Swagger in the books, he’s keeping a keen eye on whether it gets picked up for a third.

“I have to do certain things, keep up my training, keep up my abilities,” he said.

“There’s definitely differences (between basketball and acting) but there are similarities — for both things, you have to keep up your repetition… you’ve got to keep up the work, and never stop.”

It seems that work is paying off on the screen, and to hear the UBC squad tell it, on the court as well.

“He’s a hooper too, by the way,” Wallack said.

“He was hitting some hook shots from the foul line, his three-ball was falling too. He moves really well for a big man, we might have to pick him up at some point.”

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