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Mohamed Bamba worked out for the Phoenix Suns on Saturday and made quite an impression.
Suns general manager Ryan McDonough made a comparison of Bamba, a 7-footer from Harlem who played one season at the University of Texas, to Rudy Gobert, the standout center of the Utah Jazz.
“Honestly, I think at 20 years old he’s ahead of where Rudy was,” McDonough said. “Now, Rudy’s made tremendous strides over the last three or four years.
“The question for Mo is can he fill out his body the way Rudy has? But in terms of measurements, they’re similar. In terms of the willingness and desire to anchor a defense and protect the rim, they’re similar. I think Mo probably is a little more mobile at the same age, and Rudy is probably stronger, more physically developed at the same age.”
Bamba became the third player to work out individually for the Suns, who hold the first overall selection in the upcoming NBA draft. Deandre Ayton worked out for Phoenix on Wednesday and Marvin Bagley III did so Friday.
“Mo had a really good workout,” McDonough said. “His wingspan, his standing reach is off the charts. His ability to protect the rim, I think, will be elite at the NBA level, in addition to his ability to rebound the ball. Another thing that stood out to us in his workout today is we can tell he’s been working on his shooting.”
Bamba has put in work with renowned shooting coach Drew Hanlen in an effort to do just that. He said the changes to his shot have “made like a night-and-day difference in just my mechanics, gettin the ball off smoother and having softer landing on the rim.”
“My makes are all net,” he continued. “And my misses are landing very soft and long instead of short.”
Bamba’s 7-foot-10 wingspan is the largest ever recorded at the NBA draft combine. McDonough revealed Bamba’s vertical jump takes him to 12.5 feet, “which is crazy.”
Bamba is thrilled to be compared to Gobert.
“He just changed the geometry of the game,” Bamba said. “When he’s not blocking the shot, he’s in the back of your mind.”
McDonough said Bamba’s basketball acumen makes him even more attractive as a prospect, calling him “a super-bright guy, one of the smarter guys I’ve seen in the last 10 or 15 years come through the pre-draft process.”
Bamba said his basketball IQ will help him as he makes the progression to the NBA.
“I have the natural ability to pick things up a lot faster than I think most people would,” he said. “And I think I’ve shown that in the workout that we did today.
“IQ is really big. It’s something that you really want to have on and off the court, and it takes your game to the next level, for sure.”
Bamba, who weighs 234 pounds, will become stronger as he matures, McDonough said.
“He’s super-long, but he’s thin, so he needs to add some length to his body, especially the lower body,” McDonough said. “But I think from Day 1, he’ll be able to step on the court and impact games defensively, block shots, rebound and then be an over-the-top lob threat and then build the rest of his game out from there.”
While Ayton and Bagley both expressed their beliefs they will be the No. 1 overall pick come June 21, Bamba did not go that far.
“Everyone feels entitled to it, but I have no entitlement to it,” he said. “It’s something that obviously, I worked my butt off for, and my whole thing is to put it in very short sentences. I do more, and I require less.
“The Suns are more than a perfect fit for me.”