(First posted at RealGM)
Mohamed Bamba was the fourth-ranked prospect in the 2017 high school class.
In his one year at Texas, the seven-foot center accumulated 906 minutes of college basketball experience, while posting a 26.3 PER, averaging 17.1 points per 40 minutes on 59.3% true shooting, collecting 28.3% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor and ranking fourth in the country in total blocks.
Bamba projects as a catch-and-score finisher in the pros but didn’t get the benefit of playing with someone who would set him up very well very often. There were two other NBA prospects on the team, Andrew Jones and Kerwin Roach II, but neither is a particularly special ball handler and Jones only played the first third of the season before leaving the team to battle leukemia.
Texas put in the effort to space the floor but stretch-four Dylan Osetkowski is more of a shot taker than a shot maker and Jones was the only true above average shooter the team had. As is, the Longhorns ended up rating below average in three-point attempts, makes and percentage, which didn’t offer the 19-year-old many opportunities to look as great as he’s expected to be rolling hard to the rim.
Nonetheless, the Harlem, New York native still made a living getting looks near the basket, sneaking behind the defense and on put-backs, while mixing in the eventual post-up attempt here and there. Bamba also took three-pointers out of the pick-and-pop fairly aggressively. His release looks promising enough for him to keep working on it but he is not yet a real threat to make these shots often.
On the other end, Bamba also made more of an impact near the goal, not just thanks to his remarkable length but also due to good rim protection instincts. He has a lean frame within the context of his height and got bumped off his spot from time-to-time but wasn’t really exposed in the post and the defensive glass all that often, suggesting he might become a steady presence in these areas once his body matures some more.
Bamba is quite mobile for someone his size and Texas tried leveraging this by having him show high above the three-point arc or hedge against the pick-and-roll somewhat frequently. He was also asked to pick up smaller players on switches every once in a while. Bamba has physical talent to be expected to develop into an effective defender out in space but for now isn’t as much of an asset as you’d assume.
Bamba’s top skill at this point of his development is his effectiveness as a rim protector, as he averaged 4.8 blocks per 40 minutes last season. He’s also shown versatility in terms of rim protection, able to block shots coming off the weak-side in help defense, stepping up to the front of the basket as the last line of defense and defending on the ball.
Bamba is almost always alert to his responsibilities roaming around the basket, can move quickly in short areas, leaps easily off the ground out of one or two feet, has a massive nine-foot-six standing reach and puts in the effort to challenge almost everything he is close by, not just via shot blocking but via verticality as well, though his explosiveness has left something to be desired in instances where he’s been asked to venture far away from the basket and then hustle back.
The fact that he contests so many shots so actively while averaging just 3.4 personal fouls per 40 minutes is also very impressive.
Bamba showed to be attentive to his boxout responsibilities, though he rarely got very physical trying to erase his man off the play. He has a lean 225-pound frame in the context of his seven-foot height and is prone to getting pushed out of the way by tougher, more relentless opponents.
Nonetheless, Bamba had an athletic advantage against just about everyone he played against at the collegiate level. Thanks to his quickness reacting to the ball off the rim and ability to pursue it at a higher level than most of the competition, his defensive rebounding percentage ranked 10th in the NCAA.
Such an impact close to the basket showed up in the bottom line: Bamba averaged 30.2 minutes per game on a team that ranked 12th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.
An area where he has room for improvement in terms of interior defense is developing anticipation instincts to make preventive rotations that clog driving lanes and intimidate ball-handlers from getting to the rim in the first place.
Texas had Bamba hedging or showing hard at the three-point line a few times last season, depending on how capable of pulling up from long range the opposing point guard was.
He is certainly well coordinated out in space and has shown some ability of being able to harass and influence ball-handlers 25 feet away from the basket but is only so-so at keeping track and recovering back to this man after the blitz.
When asked to pick up smaller players on switches, Bamba has proven himself able to bend his knees to get down in a stance, keep pace off the dribble on straight line drives and block or intimidate shots defending on the ball at the basket. He’s not an option for every matchup out on an island, though, as shiftier types can shake him side-to-side and get by him.
Bamba has a remarkable seven-foot-nine wingspan but hasn’t yet learned how to shut down passing lanes around him. His average of one steal per 40 minutes is kind of a disappointment.
As is his defense against stretch big men at the three-point line. Despite his athletic ability, Bamba wasn’t very good at running shooters off their shots on closeouts.
On offense, he is expected to earn his money in the pros as a threat on catch-and-finishes at the basket. Bamba is an explosive leaper off two feet and can play above the rim as a target for lobs, though it’s still unclear how well he can catch the ball in traffic, given Texas didn’t manage to hit him on pocket passes very often.
And because he wasn’t always very well set up, there were times Bamba had to catch the ball, take a dribble to balance himself and go up for a non-dunk finish with a body between him and the basket and in these instances, he showed appealing coordination and decent touch on non-dunk finishes – converting his 132 shots at the basket at a 78.8% clip.
Bamba is also very effective on the offensive glass, where he has a knack for disentangling from his man and can use his length to rebounding outside of his area – collecting 12.2% of Texas’ misses when he was on the floor. Bamba also proved himself able of translating these second chance opportunities into immediate scores often thanks to his quick second jump and explosiveness on putback dunk attempts – finishing his 49 putback attempts at a 73.7% clip.
Bamba was activated in the post quite a bit, mostly in order to ignite weak-side movement where shooters and cutters tried to free themselves of their defenders. After showing to be a more capable passer during Texas’ preseason tour in Australia, he didn’t impress as much in terms of passing instincts in the regular season, mostly only spotting wide-open teammates on evident reads – assisting on just 3.6% of Texas’ scores when he was on the floor.
Bamba struggled to set deep position in the post due to his lack of strength, often getting pushed further away from the spot he intended to catch the ball in the first place. His feet are light but he is not particularly well coordinated bumping against stronger opponents, doesn’t have much feel for handling double teams and is not very secure with the ball. His average of two turnovers per 40 minutes is too high for someone with a 21.3% usage rate.
He doesn’t have any power moves and hasn’t yet developed the use of shot fakes, head fakes, ambidexterity as finisher or turnaround jumpers at this point of his development. When he manages to get a shot off, Bamba usually goes for the basic right-handed hook over the defender’s left shoulder or a face-up jumper.
Bamba ended up taking fewer long range bombs than I expected when I wrote about him in the preseason but he was still an above average shot taker for a center, getting up 51 three-point attempts in 30 appearances, at a pace of 2.3 such shots per 40 minutes.
He established himself as a capable open shot shooter for now, able to take three-pointers from the top of the key joining the offense late as the trailer in transition and from around the wing out of the pick-and-pop if left wide-open by the defense.
His release has become a bit more fluid, one without a particularly quick trigger but with somewhat comfortable mechanics for someone his size. He doesn’t often get good arc on his shot and his touch is only so-so, though.
Overall, Bamba is not yet any sort of a real floor-spacer. The ball still doesn’t go in a whole lot, as he nailed just 14 three-point shots the entire season. His 68.1% shooting on 119 free throws also put into doubt how real his potential as a shooter truly is.
 DOB: 5/12/1998
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara