Q & A: Five-star Mohamed Bamba talks USA Basketball, EYBL, Indiana

  • 07/13/2016 11:24 am in

One of the most coveted recruits in the class of 2017, Westtown School (N.Y.) big man Mohamed Bamba will have his pick of the nation’s top programs when it comes time to make a college decision.

But as Bamba prepares for a trip to Chile with USA Basketball for the FIBA Americas U18 championships, his primary focus is on basketball.

Inside the Hall talked at length with the nation’s No. 2 player, according to the 247Composite, on Tuesday in a one-on-one interview about a variety of topics, including his interest in Indiana. Here’s a full transcript of our conversation:

How’s the experience going thus far with USA Basketball? What are you learning?

“I’m getting a lot out of it. I think the biggest thing I’m taking away is something that I kind of do now, but I’m probably going to do more as I integrate it more into my game is talk more on defense. It’s such a small detail, but it will take my game to another level as far as getting on the same page with teammates and also just winning. That’s just one of the many lessons here.”

What do you feel like you need to show in the USA Basketball practices?

“Honestly, I feel like they (the coaches) know that we’re all talented in different ways. Honestly, I think it is going to come down to toughness. Who can hold onto things and not let it break you down mentally and physically. Being out here, I’m learning a lot of things about myself. My passion to win in small drills and my will to win and how much I can play through any sort of injury that I have.”

What did you learn playing in the EYBL and what were your takeaways from Peach Jam?

“EYBL, because I only got one season of it, everything was new to me. The expectation of everything, since I’m an athlete of my stature, many people would say that it wouldn’t be new to me at all. It should be something that I should dominate. That wasn’t the case even though I was dominant for most of the season. Everything was very new to me. I was taking things in.

“I reached out to guys that played in EYBL in previous seasons and I just listened to them. Before the season last year, I talked to Michael Porter (Jr.) and I asked him how it was different and he told me the game was faster and guys are a little bit stronger. It’s not like the difference between high school and college because that is a major difference, but it’s like that in a very small way.”

As far as your game goes, I know it’s a focus to improve everywhere, but are there specific areas you’re focused on?

“My post presence. Before I got to Westtown, I sat down in a room with Seth (Berger) and I didn’t really have a go-to move. There were so many different moves I had in mind that I could just go to. But playing this season and in EYBL made me realize my go-to moves and how to get to them quicker. But when I’m working out, I’m working out on a bunch of stuff like mid-post, pick-and-rolls, jump hooks and everything.”

You attended the Sloan Sports Analytic Conference that was held at MIT in Boston in March. What did you learn there?

“I learned a lot of different things on many different fronts. I learned about the game of basketball from an analytics view. We did an entire seminar with a panel on how to guard a pick-and-roll. I remember getting up and asking a question, ‘Does this translate to at all to the high school level?’ They didn’t really have an answer for it.

“Honestly, it was a great experience because when we weren’t doing analytics, we learning about how things work in the front office in the NBA. I remember the Golden State Warriors GM (Bob Myers) was there, the Houston Rockets GM (Daryl Morey) was there, the Boston Red Sox President (Sam Kennedy) was there. But things like money, cap room and all of that, it all falls under the same space.”

How much have you talked to Indiana and what have they told you about the program?

“I haven’t talked to many schools lately, but I’m sure that will change very soon. I just see things there. I see patterns that they have with guys like Thomas (Bryant) and how much they give him the ball. I’m kind of learning through his mistakes and his successes. It’s great. I honestly can’t wait to watch him play next year.

“Next season is going to be the year when I watch college basketball on a very microscopic level. I’ve got friends playing in it and these are schools that are recruiting me. It’s going to be fun to watch.”

When you say you haven’t talked to schools, is that just because you’re focus on basketball this summer?

“The month of July is an evaluation period for college coaches. We’re out there busting our butts out there, so I’m kind of focused on playing. Last week, I was focused on getting to the Peach Jam championship and trying to win. This week, I’m focused on making this USA basketball team and winning a gold medal in Chile.”

Filed to:

  • inLinE6

    It seems we’re targeting more 5-stars these days.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    don’t know how feasible it is that CTC could land this guy, but you gotta think if he defied the odds and got the #2 kid in the country it could be a serious game changer as far as recruiting goes. it would give IU that much more legitimacy in the eyes of future top 10s.

    maybe these kids like what CTC is preaching, ‘come to iu and i’ll make you a better player in every facet of the game’. as opposed to coach k, who says ‘trust me and all your wildest dreams will come true’. or cal who says ‘i’ll give you a platform with which to showcase your talent for the nba’.

  • TomJameson

    Always targeted them, but to me it’s like they keep showing more and more serious interest. We’ll start getting those guys sometime, and regularly. Who knows, maybe Bamba will be the first of many top-5 guys signing with IU.

  • ForeverIU

    I just watched a video of an interview with Mo Bamba. The video was entitled “Mohamed Bamba talks ‘positionless’ basketball.” Very smart and articulate, and incredibly mature. Noteworthy is that when he was asked about IU he said, “I know a lot from Thomas Bryant, who’s like a brother to me”!!!!

  • inLinE6

    Last time with top-5 was probably Eric Gordon (No. 2). Last time with top-10 was Noah Vonleh (No. 8). But neither had a big impact from team success perspective.

  • Arch Puddington

    Smart kid. Hopefully he sees how differently CTC has used Cody, Vonleh, and Bryant to play to their strengths. Assuming things go with Bryant as we all hope, one might guess that three first round picks in 5 years would be enough to keep a guy like Bamba interested.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    neither are particularly memorable hoosiers in my mind, that’s for sure. both gave me the impression that they had one foot out the door from the moment they stepped on campus.

  • Donnie Vick

    Plus having a bunch of 5 stars is not a guarantee of success. Just look at UK last year. Bryant outplayed UK’s 5 star big men

  • Love his maturity and basketball intelligence. Would be a HUGE get.

  • TomJameson

    I’ve always said exactly what Donnie Vick said, 5-stars are not a guarantee of success. The other thing is, that everybody doesn’t make that transition to CBB the same … even some 5-stars don’t transition very well sometimes.

    That’s why I like it that Crean recruits for more than “just” sheer talent, he goes for character and fit to the team. Pretty good track record so far. Before anybody jumps on that, no, he isn’t perfect and there have been some recruiting fails.

  • Caleb Moore

    Sounds like a kid with a good head on his shoulders. 5 star here and there mixed in with good, four year kids. Recipe for long term success. What’s not a recipe for success? Taking a pull on the crack pipe right before you walk into Tim Priller’s open gym.

  • pcantidote

    What’s also not a recipe for success? Just generally being a jerk and publicly mocking college kids.

  • Outoftheloop

    Interesting and insightful comment.

  • ForeverIU


  • Ole Man

    Oh come on now. Gordon was a steal from ILL and everybody loved it until “he who shall not be named” crashed the program.
    As to Vonleh, everyone loved the kid until late in the year when it became apparent he might be leaving for the draft. Originally, he stated his intention to stay two years. Things changed.
    Not sure why you choose to re-write history.

  • SCHoosier

    This kid clearly is influenced by what TB has done and will do. Not sure I understand how aggressive Thomas could be in communicating with Bamba..and help push him toward IU?

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    just my personal opinion, i’m sure others, yourself included, feel differently. no doubt i was excited about both when they first committed. heck, i was excited about ‘he who shall not be named’ (that’s a good one, btw). opinions can change once all the facts are in, eh?

  • ForeverIU

    I’m just curious how Noah fooled everyone except you! LOL.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    i’m just saying they’re not particularly memorable to me personally. completely my own opinion. and would you please decide on a photo and stick with it already! i’m sick of you changing it all the time

  • ForeverIU

    LOL. Why are you sick of me changing photos? I wish I were as confident in my identity as you are.

  • marcusgresham

    It’s hard to adequately gauge Gordon’s impact because he played a good portion of the season with one hand.

  • AJ_IU_ColtsFan

    Damn… kid looks like he don’t take any crap from anyone. Looks like he can back the post guy down with just the power of his glare.

    I like him already. But wait, he’s also a 5 star prospect who works hard? Man, I REALLY like him!

  • HardRockHoosier

    I guess the thing that kind of ‘soured’ me on Noah came right at the end when even though he had been ‘cleared to play’, or at least that’s what Crean said, he still was sitting out those games at the end of the season.. And a lot of us speculated, that he just didn’t want to take the chance of injury and ruin his draft status… And as Ole Man indicated he had said he would be here two years.. Although I can’t blame him for going for the gold, so to speak.

  • HardRockHoosier

    He does have a very stern look about him to say the least. With that size and demeanor, I’m sure he could really be an intimidator, especially at the college level.

  • IU1972

    Vonleh was justified in leaving a team that never game him the ball.

  • Bill Graham

    Patience is the game with kids like this…On years where there are few scholarships available and we have good returning players we need to wait for guys like this. Some of these kids are taking the Thon Maker approach and toying with programs for their own enjoyment….we need to ride out the storm because one Porter or Bamba can easily be the difference between seeing the sweet sixteen or the finals.
    *sidenote remember his hype is all about his athleticism…he’s not a completely polished post player….yet

  • ForeverIU

    Yes. But when we first recruited him everyone (that I recall) was very positive, so I was just curious as to what made WhatsUp think that he had one foot out the door, especially that he had said he plans to stay for two years and was actually a year younger than most freshmen.

  • “Positionless basketball,” huh? Sounds vaguely familiar. 🙂

  • HardRockHoosier

    Bull.. He had a lot of touches.. But every time the ball went in there, it never came back out.. Most of the time he ended up shooting it.. and once the double teaming started, it was very often just a blocked shot or tie-up situation. he wasn’t nearly as adept at getting something done as TB is..

  • IU1972

    Bull? Really? Sigh.