Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Mohamed Bamba’s AAU Coach Talks Kentucky Offer, KG Comparisons
NEW YORK — When all is said and done, Mohamed Bamba will probably be able to attend any college in America he wishes.
At 6-foot-11 and 205 pounds, the Harlem native can handle the ball, stroke the 3-pointer and thrill crowds with rim-rattling dunks. He will be on display this week at the NBPA Top 100 Camp at the University of Virginia.
“He’s going to be a kid who can literally dictate which school he wants to go to, so the biggest thing for him is just to continuously stay in that gym, stay in that classroom, get the best grades he can and get prepared for the ACT and the SAT, and just dissect the schools that he would like to go to,” Terrance “Munch” Williams of the PSA Cardinals AAU program told SNY.tv on The 4 Quarters Podcast.
“There’s going to be certain schools that call and we just say, ‘Hey, listen, you know what, we’re pretty comfortable with the schools that he has at this moment, but you’re welcome to recruit [our other players].'”
It’s no surprise that Bamba, the younger brother of former Arizona signee Sidiki Johnson, just picked up a scholarship offer from Kentucky to go with a Who’s Who of offers including Kansas, Syracuse, Arizona, UConn, Missouri, Indiana, St. John’s Texas, Villanova, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Penn State, Temple, Seton Hall, James Madison and Yale.
Duke has also checked in to express interest.
“It’s nice. It tells me to work more,” Bamba told me recently after the Frankie Williams Charity Classic in Greenburgh, N.Y., where he went for 25 points, 12 rebounds and 7 blocks.
Kentucky coach John Calipari called Bamba earlier this week when coaches could begin calling members of the Class of 2017.
“When Kentucky comes calling, a lot of guys answer the phone, they listen to what Coach Cal and his staff have to say,” Williams said.
“When it comes to Coach Cal, his big message to Mohamed was you have the Kentucky offer, and that’s what a lot of young men in his position crave,” Williams added. “And now that you have it, just to continuously just focus on the moment, which is to stay in the gym, keep focused on the classroom as far as getting the best grades you possibly can and just listen to the supporting cast you have.”
Calipari has recruited other players from the PSA Cardinals, including Cheick Diallo of Our Savior New American, the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic who picked Kansas over Kentucky, St. John’s, Pitt and Iowa State.
“I think both of those guys on the defensive end can control the paint, sometimes single-handedly and I think both are eager winners as far as they take every practice, every workout, every game as seriously as you possibly can,” Williams said.
Consider that Bamba, who plays at Westtown (Pa.) High, still has two years left in high school and it’s jaw-dropping to consider what his ceiling might be if he keeps improving.
“His development in the last 24 months has been phenomenal,” Williams said. “I think the sky’s the limit for that young man and a lot of his teammates.”
Williams compares Bamba to a young Kevin Garnett and says they jokingly refer to him with an appropriate nickname.
“Two years ago when we first got him in the gym, we called him the ‘Little Ticket’ because he reminded us of Kevin Garnett,” Williams said. “Obviously, not too many people can match Kevin Garnett’s motor and drive, but we consistently call him ‘Little Ticket.’ Hopefully, Kevin Garnett can be a guy that he has similarities to his game. [And] Anthony Davis with the measurements he has and his ability to get up and down and shoot the 15-footer and do all those types of things.
“But I think he’s a great kid.”
Photos:Lonnie Webb Photography
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.