UK Men's Basketball

Calipari’s ‘positionless’ pitch resonates with top recruit Bamba

Mohamed Bamba talks 'positionless' basketball

Top-five prospect Mohamed Bamba talks about UK, Duke, Indiana and more related to his recruitment.
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Top-five prospect Mohamed Bamba talks about UK, Duke, Indiana and more related to his recruitment.

There’s seemingly no college decision coming from five-star recruit Mohamed Bamba any time soon.

The 7-footer from Harlem, N.Y., reiterated Thursday that he doesn’t plan to cut his list of possibilities until next month. Even when he does make that cut, he’ll still be considering 10 schools.

Duke has long been seen as a possible frontrunner for Bamba, a smart, athletic prospect who excels on the defensive end and recently measured with a 7-foot-9 wingspan and 9-6 standing reach.

One of Bamba’s comments during Thursday’s Peach Jam interview session, however, could indicate that the Blue Devils might not be at the top of the list. He said he was looking for a program that featured someone who “plays like me” in recent years.

“I don’t think Duke has had anyone who plays like me in awhile,” he said.

When asked what he meant by a player that plays like him, Bamba used the word “positionless,” which has been one of John Calipari’s primary talking points with recruits over the past couple of years.

“It’s been part of his pitch,” Bamba said. “When you talk about current players, one that’s going to be playing (for UK) next year is Wenyen (Gabriel), who sort of plays like me as far as being positionless. He’s another guy that would be fun to watch, and I could probably learn from him.”

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Bamba also said recently that Calipari has compared him to Anthony Davis, who led UK to the national title in 2012 before becoming the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. ranks Bamba as the No. 2 overall prospect in the class of 2017, and he’s already being mentioned as one of the top candidates for the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft.

Calipari started this week’s live recruiting period by watching Bamba play Wednesday night at Peach Jam, and the UK coach will stay on his trail for as long as this recruitment goes.

Another one of Calipari’s selling points — getting young players ready for the NBA — is also important to Bamba, who said finding a program with a history of player development would be “very big” in his recruitment.

“When I was growing up, coming up as a basketball player, all I heard was the word ‘potential.’” Bamba said. “After awhile, potential needs to turn into … production. I think if I can channel my potential into actual production at the collegiate level, I should be ready for the NBA.”

Moving on?

Top-five prospect Wendell Carter said Thursday it’s been months since he’s heard from anyone on UK’s coaching staff.

Carter — a 6-9 post player from Atlanta — has repeatedly listed UK, Duke and Harvard as his top three schools, but many recruiting analysts view the Blue Devils as the clear favorite, and it seems the Wildcats’ coaches might have decided to move on to other post targets in the 2017 class.

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Still, Carter says he plans to take an official visit to UK.

“I still want to go out there and see them,” he said. “Hopefully I can get out there.”

Filling in

UK assistant Joel Justus has been representing the Wildcats on the recruiting trail this spring and summer, and he started the July live recruiting period at the Under Armour All-American camp in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday night before moving on to Peach Jam on Thursday.

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Justus was hired as UK’s director of analytics in 2014 and promoted to the role of special assistant to the head coach prior to the 2015-16 season. College programs are permitted to have three assistants on the road — in addition to the head coach — during live recruiting periods, and Justus has been filling in for John Robic over the past few months.

A former high school coach in North Carolina, Justus accompanied John Calipari to the Nike stop in Indianapolis in April and traveled to Spain last month to watch prospective recruits at the FIBA U17 world championships.


A couple of five-star prospects with UK scholarship offers helped their teams advance to the Peach Jam finals, but they won’t be able to help them this week.

Jarred Vanderbilt — a class of 2017 standout from Texas — was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot last month and will be unable to play for Houston Hoops.

Cameron Reddish — a class of 2018 star from Pennsylvania — suffered a sports hernia injury at Team USA U17 tryouts last month and is still recovering from that setback.

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats

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