Being the Scenes With Five Star Big Man Mohamed Bamba

Five star center Mohamed Bamba recently visited Duke unofficially as he begins to narrow down his list of schools. We caught up with the rising junior’s AAU coach to discuss the player, the recruitment to date, and the visit with Coach K and company.

Let’s start with a general question, who is Mohamed Bamba?

PSA Cardinal coach Terrance “Munch” Williams:  Yeah, he’s a great person, great academic person. He’s what we consider a giver because he wants to be a part of his community. He wants to be considered a beacon, a pillar in his community, so he’s been doing a bunch of stuff to give back to his younger siblings last year and he’s put himself in position to not only be able to help his family but those around him as well. He’s just an overall awesome young man.

How about his history with the game, how did he develop? 

His background for basketball has just been consistent growth. He’s a kid who loves to be in the gym and he’s a kid who wants to consistently get better. He’s in a position where he can continue to grow on the court as well as off the court. He’s always looking for other things that can help him become a better prospect. His knowledge of the game has increased over the past year. His knowledge and his exposure has come along, overall the sky is the limit for him.

What is his overall approach to dealing with the recruiting process?

Yeah, he’s taking his time. I think for him it’s getting a feel and a comfort zone and he’s going to be able to this next year to study the head coaches, study their systems, study their ins and outs of the academic side of each of the schools. He can now remember stuff in his head and get a better feel for what he’s looking for and honestly, he’s kinda in a position where he can pick whatever school he is looking for. Based on the offers that he has, he’s in a place where he can pretty much dictate what he wants to do.

How about for you, Coach, when you are talking with coaches on Mohamed’s behalf, what kind of questions are you asking or feedback are you seeking for him?

Regardless of who is recruiting him, we’ve been able to have a relationship with those coaches just off the last 4 or 5 years of knowing all those guys because of the high level guys we’ve had in our program. So I know those guys, I’ve watched a ton of college basketball so I know all of their programs and systems and that helps the process. I think the hardest thing right now is finding a school that has his or a similar talent to Mohamed in terms of an overall skill package so that they are able to showcase that and that not be kinda foreign to that university. 

Since you have a background with these programs that have offered Mohamed, who would consider to have a done good job utilizing and developing players in their programs who have either had a player like Mohamed or who have done things with their bigs like what Mohamed does?

That’s a trick question because there’s not a lot of players like Mohamed to be honest with you. There’s probably Marcus Camby, there’s probably Anthony Davis and maybe a couple other guys, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Garnett. A little bit of Chris Webber, so the times have changed and some of those coaches are still around who had those kids or those men at this point. Some of those coaches have gone through coaching changes since then, but it’s a difficult situation because he is so unique.

So with what you just described, what kind of things are you evaluating from the programs who have offered as you try to figure out if they are a good fit for him or not?

First and foremost is a phenomenal strength and conditioning coach and assistant coach. Definitely a great head coach and also a comprehensive development and strength and conditioning plan, not just putting on a bunch of weight but also muscle. Just a program that overall is consistent with development and that wins. 

What’s the vision for Mohamed in terms of the projected length of time that its important for him to stay in college and develop?

He wants to, as far as his development goes, that needs to start day one of his first summer school session. His process actually starts now with the ability to put on some weight, eating the right foods, getting the right amount of calories into his body, training, just doing the different things that guys are doing in college, he’s going to start doing those things as we speak so he can get a jump start because maybe he’s a kid who isn’t in college as long. 

Is that the hope for him that he’s not in college for as long a period of time?

I wouldn’t say that’s the hope, it’s God’s plan…whatever God has for him. He’s a kid who is comfortable and capable of going to college for one year just like he’s the same with staying for four years. He wants to get a degree so whatever that means, whether he goes to the NBA early and then he gets his courses done early or after he goes or he goes all four years and earns his degree. He’s not a kid who says that ‘hey, I have to go to college just for one year’, that’s not his plan. 

Speaking of plan, I heard you guys visited Duke and Wake Forest recently, that correct?

Yeah we visited Wake Forest and Duke, and then he visited St John’s a couple of days ago. 

What sparked the visits actually being coordinated and taken?

Here’s the thing, obviously with Wake Forest being so close to Duke, I have a great relationship with Coach Manning and a good relationship with Coach Childress. Duke is a great university, Coach K reached out and placed the offer on the table for Mohamed. We were already going to be there for Mohamed with Wake Forest and he wanted to stop by Duke and see what they had to offer and gather information. It wasn’t necessarily that this is the last time we were going to visit these schools, it was more so just being to able to have some dialogue and get some information and what their plans are for how they see him and how they can use him, different things like that. It doesn’t mean that one school is higher up on the list than the other, it was something that was planned early and we were able to let it come to fruition. 

How far back do the Wake Forest and Duke offers go for Mohamed?

I don’t know, couple months maybe. Before the end of July, ever since the end of July we haven’t taken any offers. 

What do you remember about how Duke communicated their offer and what kind of feedback have you guys had with them so far?

It’s been pretty consistent. I think the great thing with the Duke situation is that Coach K has been the recruiter. I think it’s been established that he’s going to be the one who kinda takes this guy and recruit Mohamed himself as opposed to having the assistant do the legwork. He’s been pretty consistent and proactive with Mohamed to get to know him as a kid.

Was there any particular reason they indicated that Coach K wanted to take that recruiting approach with Mohamed?

I would recommend that every head coach be involved in recruiting when it comes to Mohamed Bamba. The head coach is really the guy you need to get to know the most and overall I’d say most kids go to the University because of the head coach. 

Once you were on Duke’s campus for the visit, how much time did you get to spend with Coach K and his staff and what kind of things did you get to see and experience?

We spent a good amount of time with Coach K, probably about an hour and a half, two hours, something like that. We talked about the history of the university, the current personnel, the guys they are recruiting in the 2017 class, his view of Mohamed, what he thinks he can become as a person, what he can do for his community when its all said and done. He talked about his vision for how they would play him, just a bunch of different stuff, a lot. 

With that vision they presented?  What were the specifics there of how they see themselves utilizing and developing Mohamed if he were to go there?

It’s all centered around versatility. Being able to do a lot of ball-handling and spacing the court and being able to stretch the defense. Defensively being able to anchor the defense and just allow him to utilize everything he has whether it being to shoot the ball, post up, stretch the floor, just allow his overall game to flourish. The big thing was what they see in Mohamed and why they are trying to get him. 

Did you guys have questions going in for the Duke staff, or was it more lets just listen to what they have to say?

I think it was more like an inventory type visit where you take in as much information as you can hold and then try to process everything in line with what you vision is. 

Has that process you just described already happened with that info, or is there a still lot more for you guys to learn and process?

Still a lot more, going to be a long process and we want to make sure that every i is dotted and every t is crossed.

How do you and Mohamed feel about what you have heard so far?

I love what I have heard so far from Coach Manning at Wake Forest and Coach Childress and the entire staff. I think they have a great strength and conditioning plan and I think they have a vision that includes him being the face of the program. I like what both schools had to say, I think they both have a consistent plan of attack, they both view him as a vital piece to the puzzle and I think he has an opportunity to play right away at both universities. It’s one of the top conferences in the country and I think Coach Manning has a great plan and a belief in his track record of developing big guys. With him being a big guy himself there’s a certain comfort zone with a guy like that. With Coach K, his track record and what he’s done and being able to be around guys in the NBA through USA Basketball, that plays a vital role as well. I think they are both valuable universities and I think ideally they both should play a role in his recruitment.

Any other visits that you guys are actively either planning or in the lining up process at this point?

Right now it’s probably going to be next steps of going to Midnight Madness but right now the most important thing is getting back into school, getting his feet back into that process of academia and getting in the gym to get more stronger and get more polished with what he does and keep working on his skill set. He’s back into both worlds now because he’s a student and an athlete, that’s the most important parts. 

Which programs are being considered for a potential Midnight Madness visit?

Being honest there’s no one right now because a lot with him has to do with time, distance and the amount of schoolwork that he has at that moment. So he could visit none, or he could visit a couple, it’s up to that moment, maybe a week before before he knows he’s coming. 

How big a factor do you think distance plays once you progress to final decision making time for where he’s going to college?

There’s no, distance is not a factor. I think the biggest thing is going to be playing at a place that feels like home and this is a place that I’m going to be proud when I say that I went to this university. Mohamed is a very cerebral kid who wants to think long-term so that he’s able to go to a college where he can put an impact on it and where he’s proud that he went to that school. Whether that’s Harvard, or that’s Yale, whether that’s Duke, Kentucky, wherever it is he wants to make sure that it’s a place that is a respectful university or college. 

Do you guys have a vision in terms of future list cut down and decision making timeframe yet, or still thinking through those things?

I mean not necessarily we’re not worried about the list that he has because all of his offers are from really good schools and I think it’s more important that he focus on doing his own research. I think that I want to give everybody a chance to recruit the kid and once he gets to the point where he feels like based on the information that I’ve gathered and based on that particular university I don’t think it’s going to fit me, other than that I think it’s still early in the process. I’m not necessarily sure he’s at a place where it’s time to cut any school off yet, he needs some time to either get to know a head coach or figure out some time to visit a school. I can’t really say there’s a timeframe at this point, he’s in full control of his destiny.

Big picture perspective with programs who maybe are recruiting Mohamed but haven’t extended a firm offer yet, are there any of those programs that you guys are hoping to have an offer from before his process goes farther in the future?

I wouldn’t even say that there’s a ton of programs that haven’t offered him that we’re looking for that from them, but I would tell you I don’t know how you would be a program who has seen him who hasn’t offered him yet. The quicker that you can get to that point, the quicker you can, the least you have to get evaluated in terms of if you keep waiting, the less information this kid is going to have about your particular school. He’s a no-brainer. I don’t know if there are many coaches out here who haven’t seen him, but if you have seen him and you choose not to offer him, I respect that but if you have seen him, I don’t know how you don’t offer him. 

Are there any programs that are in that category?

I can’t tell you, every school that has contacted us has offered, so I don’t think you pick up the phone and say I have interest in a top 5 talent without an offer.

How does the timing of when the various programs’ have offered affect Mohamed’s consideration of them?

Mohamed is organized to the point that he knows the date of the offer, he knows the offer and he knows the date of that offer and the order of the offers. If it Indiana on the 3rd or whenever it was, he has that listed and he has that sequential information.

So what does he do with that knowledge?

I believe he takes that information and he’s able to educate himself in terms of I know I have that Indiana offer and I can now go and look at their school on the internet while I hopefully wait to get a chance to visit. I can track Indiana and their success on and off the court, I’m just giving Indiana as an example, you can say School A or whatever in a sense. He can say I know I have an offer from this school, I know where they stand and I can gather information on that particular school on my own terms. Or, when the season starts and if there’s a game on that he wants to see, he can know that School A is playing School B and I can watch that game to see how they utilize their bigs, or what their guard situation is, things of that nature. I think he takes that information and utilizes it to the best of his ability. In a sense his recruitment is reversed because he’s recruiting the school versus the school is recruiting him at times. 

With that, are there a lot of programs that he’s making the effort on his own to contact their coaches?

He’ll say that I want to speak to School A and he’ll get on the phone with them or if he wants to talk to School F, he’ll speak to them. These kids have so much going on that they don’t have a ton of time to have a lot of dialogue with these schools. So you gotta catch a kid when he’s actually in a good mood to have a good conversation versus if he just answered whenever the school calls him, the school doesn’t know what that particular kid is doing at that time when the phone rings or a text comes in in terms of when they are able to have a quality conversation with the kid. Mohamed is more into quality over quantity with conversations. When he gets on the phone with a coach, it might be a conversation that lasts 30 minutes or 45 versus if you can get a kid on the phone for 2 minutes on a Wednesday, that’s not going to help you that much.

Can you share any examples of programs that he is having those more lengthy, quality conversations with?

I would say every time he gets on the phone it’s a quality conversation, there’s not one particular school, but every time he gets on the phone with whatever coach, it’s always been a quality conversation because he’s in the moment and he’s in his comfort zone. He doesn’t ever get on the phone if he doesn’t want to. When he’s on the phone with a coach it’s because he’s in the mood to do that and he is very articulate, engaged and he actually is proactive in questioning and making comments. Whenever he’s on the phone its going to be quality because he doesn’t go through the motions just to do it.

The questions or comments he makes I would say are unique to each coach because coaches move around so much that School A Coach can move and become School D Coach in the next two years. Because of his relationship with School A Coach, maybe School D is still a quality program because of School A Coach being there if they move. So the questions and the statements and the jokes, him being intrigued by certain things-it’s geared towards the coach, not just the university.

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