Underrated and multi-faceted 6-foot-8 forward Joel Ntambwe appears to be inching closer to a decision. Ntambwe, who has been recruited heavily by Ed Cooley since November, will decide amongst Providence, Florida State, and Wichita State. A few others are potential destinations, although those three programs are the current front runners for the late-bloomer recruit.
The senior from Forrest Trails (N.C.) said his relationship with Cooley is one of the key factors that makes Providence an appealing choice.
“Ed Cooley is one of the best coaches around and he’s one of the best coaches I know,” Ntambwe said.
“Coach Cooley, he’s one of the best personal motivators. He cares about me off the court as much as he does on it. He wants what is best for me as a person first and as a basketball player second.”
Ntambwe’s guardian and mentor, Dave Caputo, said Ntambwe’s ability to facilitate with the IQ of a point guard and adapt to the point forward position enhances his high-major stock.
“Coach Cooley has made it clear he thinks Joel is one of the best passers he’s seen for a guy his size,” Caputo said. “He’s multi-dimensional and he can play and guard any position from the one to the four. His decision making and natural feel for the game is why he’s become a sought after recruit. Ed has been probably the most consistent overall in Joel’s recruitment and has really done a great job.”
Wichita State, Wake Forest, Arkansas, and Duquesne have all been in steady pursuit in Ntambwe. Both Kansas and Cal have jumped in the mix late, though both programs have not offered yet. Ntambwe has improved the past season, packing muscle onto a once-spindly frame. Having added on to his all-around game and also operating the offense, Ntambwe’s game is similar to former Friar forward Geoff McDermott.
McDermott, one of the Big East’s top rebounders in his heyday, had the versatility to play a variety of positions on the floor.
“Right now to be honest, I don’t classify myself as one position,” Ntambwe said. “Especially because I feel I can play it all. I can play the one through the four. At the next level, I’m probably going to be playing the two or the three. But hey, I’m comfortable bringing the ball up and directing the game at the point.
While Providence has expressed intrigue in Ntambwe from the very start, Florida State has worked aggressively with the Class of 2018 recruit.
“FSU has been recruiting me hard and staying on me,” said Ntambwe, who is from The Congo originally.
“Right now, I am taking everything one step at a time. I am still wide open. Soon, I’ll shorten my list.”
Buoyed by a consistent mid-range and pull-up game, Ntambwe’s dependable 3-point shot and new knack for attacking has given him credibility as a scoring threat. He’s become a matchup issue because of his ability to take smaller defenders to the post.
“The thing that helped me the most was confronting the fact that I wasn’t very strong at first,” said Ntambwe, who has garnered national visibility after initially going under-recruited.
“My trainers and several other people just pushed me in the weight room non-stop. They helped me work on my upper body strength. I was able to increase my strength and continue to work away at ball handling and my shot.”
Caputo was quick to cite Cooley and FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton as everyday presences in Ntambwe’s recruitment. Both coaches have been in constant contact. According to Caputo, both appear to be sold on grooming Ntambwe as a quintessential point forward.
“I often liken him to Lamar Odom in high school,” Caputo said. “That’s because he has the size to be a matchup nightmare with his ability to pass the ball and handle the ball exceptionally well for a 6-foot-8 guy. He’s a rare breed, a type of talent you don’t see very often.”