By David Cordova
This interview on five-star prospect Mohamed Bamba was originally featured on Gotham Hoops in April 2016.
The Mohamed Bamba Story
In the Big Apple, guards are usually the norm and big men are usually scarce and hard to find. The main reason for that is that a lot of New York City’s finest centers end up leaving and going to greener pastures at many top-notch boarding schools in other states in search of better exposure and better academics.
One player has thrived as both big-time athlete and a big-time scholar. The player is none other than Mohamed Bamba. The 6-foot-11 Harlem native, who is one of the most sought-after recruits in the country, has risen from obscurity to becoming the No. 2 prospect in the class of 2017, by 24/7 Sports.
When asked about being from Harlem, which has been a breeding ground for plenty of talent, he replied, “It means everything, it’s a blessing in disguise. When you think of Harlem, you think of the inner city. But we have our own swag and our own personality. A lot of people say that I’m not from Harlem, but trust me, I’m from Harlem.”
Like many youths in the area, he spent his younger years playing from the Milbank Flyers, a program based out of the Dunleavy Milbank Community Center, located on 118th Street on the west side of Harlem. “It was a great experience, I hit the ground running with them. I learned what it felt like to be a part of a team.”
While in middle school, he made the transition to going to boarding school, or which many would prefer to call it, prep school, at Cardigan Mountain School in Cannan, New Hampshire. He now attends the Westtown School in Westtown Township, Pennsylvania, which is a top-flight elite academic institution.
Going away to prep school has helped Bamba in many ways as opposed to attending school in New York. “I knew I needed to get away (from the city),” Bamba says, “My grades needed a drastic boost and something that I spoke to my mother about and she encouraged it and I felt like, ‘I could do this.’ The experience has helped me a lot. It helped me learn how to do the simple things in life, the intangibles, such as how to talk to a person, how to eat at the dinner table, and how to deal with different kinds of people.”
His maturation also happened on the court as well as he has become a huge force during the last couple of years. This season, he led Westtown to a 28-6 record and a PSIAA championship and wins against national powerhouses St. Benedict’s Prep (NJ), Advanced Prep International (TX) and Potter’s House Christian (FL). He averaged 13.7 points a game this season.
“Before this season, I had never played on a team with as much talent as Westtown, at least on the school level. It was something that I had embraced. My junior season was a huge success, we won a state championship, so I have no complaints.”
This summer, Bamba will compete for the PSA Cardinals, for whom he has played for the last couple of years, on the Nike EYBL circuit, which is arguably the best league in the country. “Playing for them has helped me a lot. When I first got to PSA, they threw me in with the big dogs, they didn’t give me a warning, they threw me in with guys like Chris McCullough and Cheick Diallo and it was a bit eye-opening, but I embraced it and got through it.”
Although his dominant play has helped him attain top rankings and recognition around the country, Bamba continues to hungry and plans on working harder on his game. “I definitely don’t feel complete, I know that there’s much more to go and I have places that I have goals that I have set to achieve. I’m not done yet.”
His talent on the floor is very remarkable for someone that may be continuing to grow in height as he has a 7-foot-8 wingspan. When going into the lane for a basket, he is an intimidating force in the paint, blocking shots with reckless abandon on defense and hammering down dunks on the offensive end.
Because of his great play, he has earned collegiate offers from perennial powerhouse schools such as Duke, Arizona, Villanova, UConn, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas and Syracuse. According to PSA Cardinals head coach and program director, Terrance “Munch” Williams, Bamba plans on cutting his list of schools to ten in the month of August.
With a great upside like he has, there is no telling how bright Bamba’s future will be. He has no plans to stop now, for he will only continue to raise his level of play throughout this spring and summer. “I set out goals for everyday, such as getting through today’s practice, tomorrow will be something similar, just day-to-day goals, and just work hard from there.”
Through the summer of 2016, Bamba dominated the Nike EYBL circuit with the PSA Cardinals, leading them to a 14-2 record and steamrolling through four sessions and clinching a berth for the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina. It was at Peach Jam, that they shone the brightest, reaching the championship game against MoKan Elite, in which they lost. Thoughout the summer, he averaged 13 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game on what is known as the best summer circuit in America.
He also made appearances at events such as the Nike Basketball Academy, Adidas Nations and the Nike Bahamas exhibition game, known as “The Trip,” in which twelve of the best players in the Nike EYBL squared off against the best players from the Bahamas. He was also a part of the U18 USA Basketball gold-medal winning team in Chile.
One of his best moments of the summer came on August 23rd at the Unlimited NYC event in Harlem, which was run by Nike. The event went down at the Kingdome, which is located at the King Towers, the neighborhood in which he grew up. When Bamba walked out onto crowd, there were many cheers for him, as the old neighborhood got to see their native son do his thing on the court, being that he is rarely seen in the area.
Last month, he shortened his list to seven schools: Duke, Kentucky, UConn, Michigan, Syracuse, Texas and Harvard. Bamba is poised for a big senior year at the Westtown School alongside players such as Arizona commit & fellow PSA Cardinal Brandon Randolph and junior Cameron Reddish helping out. Now will the question is: Will he commit to a school in a power conference such as the ACC, SEC, Big Ten &/or the Big 12 or will he shock the world and go to Harvard and play in the Ivy League conference? Only time will tell. But one thing is for certain, he definitely has a bright future ahead of him.
Highlights of Mohamed Bamba:
Courtesy of 8Eye Media.
Courtesy of Courtside Films.
Courtesy of MJ LJ.
Courtesy of CourtCred.
Courtesy of Krossover TV.
Courtesy of Raw Sports.
Courtesy of NBADraft Prospects.
Courtesy of Hoop Journey.
Courtesy of Slam Magazine.
Courtesy of Primetime Hoops.
Courtesy of Ceasy Productions.