The past few months have been a period of transition for Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, one of the top high school basketball recruits in the country.
He’s in his first year at High Point (N.C.) Christian Academy, a transfer that was necessary to get some stiffer competition on the court, but one that meant he’d be moving three hours away from his mother, who stayed back home in Washington, N.C.
Adebayo acknowledged Tuesday that it’s been tough at times without his mom around, but he said they both decided that the move would be in his best interest as he continues his basketball career.
They employed the same thinking when deciding on a college.
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“Whatever’s best for you is best for me,” Adebayo’s mother told him.
“So, I said, ‘I’m going to Kentucky, Mom.’”
Over the weekend, Adebayo told UK Coach John Calipari of his decision. On Tuesday morning, he revealed it to everyone else, wearing a blue, black and white bow tie on ESPN and throwing on a UK hat for good measure.
The announcement was a surprising one.
For months, it seemed a near-certainty that Adebayo would ultimately commit to North Carolina State, a school that’s just 100 miles from home and already has a commitment from five-star point guard Dennis Smith Jr., one of Adebayo’s former AAU teammates and best friends.
Instead, Adebayo made the decision that he thinks will benefit his future most.
“It was a situation where I had to be my own man, make it happen for me and do what was best for me,” he told the Herald-Leader. “It just felt like a good environment to me when I went on my official visit. I know every one of Coach Cal’s players want to get to the NBA. I come in there at midnight and I see Isaiah Briscoe and Charles Matthews in the gym. They’re just in the gym. They just love basketball.”
The 6-foot-10, 260-pound Adebayo has earned a reputation as one of the hardest-working players in the 2016 recruiting class, regarded as one of the most talented groups in years.
"Bam is a difference-maker from day one,” said Scout.com analyst Evan Daniels. “And the reason is because of how physical and how tough and how good of a rebounder and rim-runner he is. This is a massive pick-up for Kentucky."
He joins a recruiting class that already includes No. 1 point guard De’Aaron Fox, five-star small forward Wenyen Gabriel and five-star power forward Sacha Killeya-Jones.
UK’s frontcourt for the 2016-17 season is certain to include Adebayo, Killeya-Jones, current freshman Isaac Humphries and New Zealand power forward Tai Wynyard, who signed with the Cats on Sunday and will join the team for the second semester of the current season.
Adebayo, who averaged 32.2 points, 21 rebounds, and 4.5 blocked shots during his junior season, describes himself as a “high-motor” player who likes to “wreak havoc” in the post.
"What Bam brings is a combination of physical play, athleticism, and his ability to run the floor,” Daniels said. “He’s different than those other guys. Sacha is a skill guy. Tai Wynyard is more of a physical post player, but he’s below the rim. Bam is an above-the-rim, physical post player that they don’t have.
“Bam isn’t the most skilled guy in the world. But he’s strong, tough, physical, willing to battle inside. And he owns his area from a rebounding standpoint. We’ve seen Kentucky throw alley-oops to their bigs in the past. This is a guy who — when those Kentucky guards are driving, they’re going to have a dude to throw it up to.”
With a formidable frontcourt already in place, Calipari can turn his attention to five-star combo guard Malik Monk to round out his 2016 recruiting class, which is ranked No. 2 in the country behind only Duke.
Adebayo says he knows that Fox, Gabriel and Killeya-Jones have been lobbying Monk to join them in Lexington, and he’s ready to recruit on UK’s behalf as well.
If they’re successful, UK will once again have the nation’s No. 1 class.
"If they were able to snag him, too — and I think they're in great shape — it would certainly be the class to beat,” Daniels said.