Sometimes an athlete is so brilliant and transcendent, he or she is impossible to miss from the moment the field of play is within sight.
And whether it was the tiny gymnasium on the idyllic Westtown School campus, or the cavernous confines of the 18,000-seat United Center in Chicago, anyone who watched Mohamed Bamba touch a basketball this season would agree that the senior star is a talent the likes of which Chester County may never see again.
That’s why Westtown senior Mohamed Bamba is the Daily Local News 2016-17 All-Area Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
This season, Westtown compiled a 30-3 record against some of the best competition in the country. Throw in a third straight Friends League championship and a second consecutive Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools state crown, and one could say Bamba’s tenure is nearly impossible to match.
Cap it off with a standout performance at the McDonald’s All-America game in Chicago last month, along with a much-publicized (and still unfinished) recruiting campaign, and the story is only beginning for the 6-foot-11 Bamba.
The Westtown star dominated the floor as he intimidated teams with his eight-foot wing span and his ability to block shots and protect the rim. Bamba averaged 13 points per game to go along with 12 rebounds and five blocked shots per contest.
Bamba, a Harlem native, is also a finalist for the Naismith Award as the best high school basketball player in the United States. Bamba received offers from all the Division 1 powerhouses, and has his final list is down to heavyweights, Duke, Michigan, Kansas, and Texas.
“Wherever he decides to go he will only likely there a year because he will be a lottery pick for the NBA the following season,” Westtown coach Seth Berger said. “He is the most talented defensive player I have ever seen at the high school level. He is a supreme rim protector, he can guard all five positions on the floor and he can run the floor offensively, shoot the 3-ball and he also can bring the ball up the floor. He is a fantastic talent.”
Bamba said although he cherished his time at the Westtown, he is anxious to get to the next level and continue his journey to the NBA.
“I still do not know where I am going to college,” Bamba said. “But, they are all good schools and I hope to be there for just one season. I loved my time at Westtown, but I am excited to be going to the next chapter in my life. I can’t wait to get to the NBA and play against the best competition in the world. I know I can play at that level and my time at Westtown prepared me for that because we played some top competition.
“I will miss here and I was used to the boarding school aspect of things because I attended the Cardigan School in New Hampshire when I was a freshman,” Bamba said “And I liked Westtown more because we had more diversity here and I got along so well with my teammates and we won some championships here. I will not forget that.”
Westtown was followed around by many media outlets all during the season, as Bamba had some talented teammates, like University of Arizona-bound Brandon Randolph, Division 1 players in Anthony Ochefu and Jake Forrester, along with rising junior Cameron Reddish. Westtown games became standing room only events early in the season, and the spotlight was clearly on the top high school big man in the country, on one of the best teams in the country.
“We had a lot of people following us but it did not bother me at all,” Bamba said. “I was used to all the attention because of being in showcases and some big tournaments. To play at the top level you have to be used to crowds and I think all of us enjoyed it.”
In his tenure as head coach at Westtown, Berger has had many Division 1 players, but it seems like even in the rarefied air of Westtown basketball, Bamba stands apart.
“Mo just dominated a game on both ends of the floor and he only fouled out of one high school game in his career, and that is remarkable for a rim protector like him, where opposing teams are attacking the basket,” Berger said. “He is just a very special player and human being.”
Bamba may well be on his way to the NBA, but he forever has left his mark in Chester County and the Westtown School.