Reminders of home help land Tangara

Most would not associate Tucson, Arizona and the African nation of Mali, but for Mohamed Tangara there were enough similarities that he will make the Old Pueblo his home for a few years to come. The highly regarded big man verbally committed to Arizona after taking an unofficial visit to the school this weekend.

"He's really excited to be a Wildcat," said Linzy Davis, Mohamed Tangara's sponsor in the United States. Tangara has only recently come to the United States to pursue basketball. His dream is to make it in the NBA so that he can support his large family, all of whom are still in Mali. The power forward excelled at Mt. Zion Academy last season and made a splash on the summer recruiting circuit.

Tangara is a raw prospect, especially on offense, and has tremendous upside. He has a great build and an outstanding work ethic. He's a legit 6-9, 230 and can probably add another 20 pounds without losing any quickness. He's a beast on the boards and battles on the inside. Frankly, he's the type of player Arizona has lacked since Michael Wright and Gene Edgerson departed in 2001.

Surprisingly it was the similarities to his native Mali that drew Tangara to Arizona.

"The weather is a lot like Mali's weather," Davis said. "Plus they surrounded him with people from Mali."

As it turns out there are a number of international students who hail from Mali on campus. The Wildcat coaches introduced Tangara to several of these students and an instant bond was formed.

"There is enough of a base with people from the country," Davis explained. "They helped Mohamed feel more comfortable."

It wasn't the Wildcat coaches being smart enough to search out students from Mali for the big man to interact with, it was how they handled the whole recruitment. The Cats made up a lot of ground on early favorite Louisville and assistant coach Josh Pastner had a lot to do with that.

"A lot of it was the relentless work of Josh Pastner," Davis said of the Wildcats' successful pursuit of Tangara. "He took care of Mohamed. He made him feel like he was looking out for him. He is focused on Mohamed being the best player and person that he can be."

Of course having a coaching legend as a boss made things easier for the Cats' energetic assistant.

"Coach Olson being a Hall of Fame coach was key," Davis confessed.

Of course the Arizona program as a whole was a selling point. Davis noted that Tangara loved his future teammates and was excited that the Cats' first seven games his freshman year would be on national television. Cat Tracks got to witness Tangara play pick-up during his visit this weekend and it was obvious that a bond had developed between the youngster and the current veterans on the squad.

Tangara will be a much-needed boost to the inside game. It is not an impossibility that only Isaiah Fox and Kirk Walters could be the only pure inside guys on the roster in 2004. Even if Chris Dunn rejoins the team and/or Channing Frye stays, Tangara would give the Cats a banger on the inside. Luckily, with a program like Arizona, the freshman would not have to worry about carrying a scoring load and could focus on rebounding and defense.

Not everything is positive with Tangara. Sure the Cats get a great player who from all accounts is a great kid, but qualifying could be a minor problem. Tangara's visit was an unofficial visit, due to the fact he has not posted a score on the SAT or ACT. Tangara is a good student and is very intelligent, but things are never easy when trying to admit a foreign player. Despite an outside shot of troubles, both his AAU coach and the staff at Mt. Zion Academy believe that qualifying will be no problem.

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