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He announced (via The Fieldhouse’s Brian Hamilton) his intention to leave Texas after one season to turn pro Tuesday.
Bamba, 19, was always expected to be a one-and-done at the college level. The freshman averaged 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game in the 2017-18 season, offering the Longhorns an elite rim-protecting force in the paint.
That presence left his team 12th in adjusted defensive efficiency (94.1 points allowed per 100 possessions), per KenPom.com. It wasn’t enough for the 10th-seeded Longhorns to advance past the first round of the men’s NCAA tournament, however, where they lost to No. 7 Nevada, 87-83, in overtime in the South Regional.
“The expectation was to win a national championship,” Bamba said after that defeat, per Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com. “As it went on my freshman year, it kind of gave me a level of humility.”
While Bamba’s offensive game is raw and will need to be polished if he’s ever to become a true two-way threat in the NBA, his defense and rebounding already make him an intriguing prospect and a player who could be a top-five selection in Brooklyn, New York.
On March 13, B/R’s Jonathan Wasserman listed Bamba No. 5 overall in his mock draft, writing: “[Bamba] shoots 74.3 percent at the rim, giving his guards an enormous finishing target (30-of-31 on basket cuts) and clean-up man (1.328 PPP on putbacks).”
And Gary Parrish of CBS Sports had him going No. 4 overall in his March 15 mock draft, noting:
“The 7-foot forward with a 7’9” wingspan alters nearly everything around the rim and projects, at worst, as a future First-Team All-Defense member. At best, he’ll develop enough offensively to join Golden State’s Kevin Durant on the list of one-and-done Texas alums who went on to become franchise-changing superstars.”
If Bamba can add a consistent jumper to his game, he could be like Joel Embiid. If not, he still has the upside to become a Rudy Gobert or Clint Capela. There are surely plenty of NBA teams excited by the prospect of getting the most out of that potential.