All eyes were on five-star big man Mohamed Bamba Sunday evening at the City of Palms.
Not only did Bamba, Scout’s No. 2 overall player, match up with the No. 1 player, DeAndre Ayton, but he also spoke to reporters for the first time in a while about the latest in his college recruitment.
Unfortunately, like most big time high school pairings, the match up between Bamba and Ayton lacked excitement. Bamba, of Westtown (Pa.) School, finished 2-for-6 with six points, five rebounds and three blocks, while Ayton was 4-for-17 from the field with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
“I think I played pretty well. I knew going into this game that this was a Super Bowl of mine,” Bamba said. “I played against DeAndre in the first game of the EYBL and that was big for me. It was the same mentality coming into this game.”
Did Bamba feel like the two canceled each other out?
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “He was very physical, but I’m pretty edgy.”
“They were [chippy], but we are very good friends and I know I bring out the best in him and he brings out the best in me,” Bamba added. “It’s always fun playing against him.”
As one would expect for the No. 2 overall player in the country, Bamba is in the midst of a competitive recruitment. Michigan's John Beilein and Texas’ Shaka Smart were both at City of Palms to watch him on Sunday.
“It’s going pretty well,” he said of the process. “I think what has changed the most about my recruiting process is my family is very involved with it. That’s something I think with these recruiting visits I was able to get the whole family together which was something that I couldn’t do when I was younger, so honestly it’s a blessing.”
To date, Bamba has taken a pair of official visits. His first was to Michigan the first weekend of September.
“That was my first official visit so it kind of set the tone,” he said. “I liked obviously Michigan is one of the biggest universities in the world and it’s set to such a high standard academically and athletically. They do things the right way.”
Bamba has only taken one other official visit. That was a trip to Texas on October 29th.
“It was great,” he said of the Texas visit. “It was very hot down there. But the family loved it. It was a very big university and we were able to get in 48 hours we were able to see how it would look as a student athlete there.”
Although Harvard hasn’t received an official visit, Bamba has visited Harvard’s campus unofficially multiple times.
“Harvard is still involved,” he said. “I just took the ACT again. Hopefully I get the score that I want. So I’m going to apply and hopefully have that as an opportunity.”
At this point, Bamba doesn’t have any other visits set up.
“That will change very soon,” he said referring to Duke and Kentucky.
The Blue Devils watched Bamba recently and have ramped up their communication with him. What has Duke’s pitch been to Bamba?
“Brotherhood,” he said. “You can see it too. They go out there and get after it. Those guys are like a true brotherhood.”
“I’ve been talking to coach [Jeff] Capel, we’ve been talking a lot,” he added. “We’ve talked about how he sees me as a player at Duke and we talked about how I fit in at Duke. One thing that we talked about a lot, which might be surprising, would be the Ben Simmons documentary. I haven’t talked to him on the phone about it, but it was a great text convo.”
Kentucky has also been aggressive in their pursuit of Bamba and the person leading the charge is AAU teammate and close friend Quade Green, who committed to Kentucky in November.
“You saw him on the sidelines wearing that hat,” Bamba said of Green. “He’s been pretty relentless with it, but who knows.”
“It’s been mainly the same pitch as the summer,” he added about Kentucky. “Positionless [basketball] and their track record right now. What are the three bigs in the NBA when you think Kentucky? Anthony Davis, KAT and you think DeMarcus Cousins. Their track record is unbelievable.”
Next up for Bamba is securing visit dates and starting to examine each team involved a little more.
“Watch,” he said when asked where he would go from here. “Just watching. I like what I see from pretty much every team recruiting me. It’s just a matter of watching.”