Amid a chorus of pro-Kentucky recruiting pitches, five-star 7-footer Mohamed Bamba will arrive in Lexington this weekend for one more long look at UK’s basketball program as he continues to weigh his college decision.
Bamba — the No. 2 overall player in the Scout.com rankings for the class of 2017 — is hearing about the Wildcats from all sides these days.
UK Coach John Calipari and assistant Tony Barbee were at his high school in Pennsylvania last week for a visit, the most recent of many similar trips over the past few months.
Hamidou Diallo — the newest Kentucky Wildcat — has been relaying information about UK’s program to Bamba, a close friend and fellow New York native.
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Quade Green, still in high school, but UK’s likely starting point guard next season and another close friend of Bamba’s, hasn’t been shy about asking his former AAU teammate to join him in Lexington.
“I tell Mo every day, ‘BBN.’ I don’t say nothing to him but, ‘BBN,’” Green told ESPN during a nationally televised high school game Monday.
Bamba will take his official visit to UK this weekend, and the latest word in national recruiting circles is that the Wildcats appear to be in great shape.
“There’s a lot of buzz for Kentucky right now because he set up the official visit and because he has two close friends there,” Scout.com’s Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Mohamed, it’s that he doesn’t show all his cards. He’s very well-versed with the media.
“Do I think Kentucky’s in good position? Yes, I do. Heading into the visit, they’re in good position. But I think Duke is pretty strong in there. And you can’t write off Texas.”
Bamba, who also visited Lexington for Big Blue Madness in October, recently cut his list to UK, Duke, Michigan and Texas. He’s taken official visits to Ann Arbor and Austin, and he’s planning to be on Duke’s campus next month for the final such trip of his recruitment.
UK already expects to have a loaded frontcourt next season, but Calipari has made clear that he’d love to add Bamba to the mix.
DraftExpress.com is projecting him as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, and Daniels says he’ll be a “game-changer” at the college level next season.
“At his size, with his length, he just impacts the game so much,” he said. “That length is such a factor, and it allows him to be such a factor on the defensive end. Just his presence forces guys to think when they drive, and he’s done a really good job on the glass, too.”
Next Cats player page: Mohamed Bamba
Bamba, who was measured with a 7-9 wingspan and 9-6 standing reach at Team USA camp over the summer, led the Nike league in rebounding and was third in blocked shots. Like recent UK post players Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein, his mere presence in the lane can force opponents to change up their offensive game, making them think twice before attempting a shot anywhere near him.
“I know they’re thinking in their heads, ‘Mohamed Bamba’s down there. Maybe I need to alter my shot.’ He just changes things in so many ways,” Daniels said, adding that Bamba can also get the job done offensively.
“I still think he’s being a little undervalued on that end of the floor. Some people think he’s inept. He’s not. He has good hands. He can make a short- to mid-range jump shot, and he can finish close to the basket.
“He’s going to get his fair share of points. … He’s going to have a huge impact in his one year in college.”
Even if his official visit to UK goes well this weekend, Bamba is not likely to announce a commitment any time soon. He still has that trip to Duke scheduled for February, and he seems to be in no rush to make his next move.
He’ll play on the same team as Green and three other UK commitments at the McDonald’s All-American Game on March 29, and he could very well go into that night still uncommitted.
“I don’t see him making a decision until at least McDonald’s,” Daniels said. “But probably after.”